Monday, March 24, 2014

Rest in Peace Maile Tua'one

Sixth Grade Picture Day

I heard the worst news today. Maile was killed in a car accident. Can I just tell you how much she will be missed in this world?  Here goes.

Maile was a student in my first classroom. She was a brilliant person, who made every assignment her own. I still have sample pages of a book that she wrote about Ancient Rome in my teaching portfolio. Maile made all of the facts into short rhyming poems and added creative illustrations to match each subject.  She was very serious about school, and worked earnestly on each and every assignment.

Because I was relatively new to teaching, I made a lot of mistakes. Maile was my bellwether. I could always tell by looking at her, whether or not I was hitting the mark. I knew that her parents probably wanted her to have a more experienced teacher. I was an insecure, rank amateur. And, Maile was a tough critic. She held herself to a high standard, so she had high expectations of those around her. I remember attending her grandfather's funeral one Saturday, because I wanted to show her my support. She looked at me across the church, and held my gaze for the longest time. Listening to the service for her grandfather, made me realize that she came from a singular family.  A family that valued education.  A family that lived like they meant it.

Often, in my class, I talk about being a "Level 6" person. Level 6 behavior means that one "has a strong moral code, and lives by it." Maile, even as an eleven year old, was just such a person. I was always amazed at her self-confidence. My own personal life had been a mess during the previous year, walking away from an abusive boyfriend, had caused me to flounder. I felt hopeless, and ashamed of myself. Watching the students at Stansbury Elementary, endure hardship and persevere, gave me hope that I could do the same. Watching Maile, made me realize that I could pull myself together, and return to my former, valued self. She was the highest example.

From reading the newspaper article, describing Maile's death, it was mentioned that she was killed when a semi-truck hit her, while she and a young man were changing a tire in the emergency lane on the shoulder of the highway. Of course, Maile would be helping to change the tire. That's what I kept thinking, as I read the article. During all of my years as a teacher, I still have a picture of her framed on my desk. She is standing with Jeanmarie and Ryan, and they are all laughing. She had taken the sign for our door which read: "Testing Do Not Disturb", and cut it apart, then added an -ed. Once it read "Disturbed", she had attached it to Ryan's forehead. This picture makes me laugh every time I look at it. Now I will look at it and feel such a loss, not just for me, but for us all.


  1. Gee Karen, what a tragedy for us all. But what a beautiful homage you have written about this exceptional person. Perhaps you can send it to them. They would treasure the memory.

  2. I'm so sorry. She sounds like such an exemplary, exceptional person. What a great legacy to know you've made a difference in the world, to one, some or many.


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