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Reason Why We All became Teachers

April 26, 2011

Why is it that all of us became teachers?  It is because we wanted to make a difference in someone’s life.  After reading the story I wrote on WES PE teacher, Win Onishi, I got this letter from one of his former students and wanted to share it with all of you as a reminder that we all made a difference.

Dear Mr. Onishi,

I’m not sure if you remember me, but I attended Waiakea Elementary School in the early to mid 90’s and like most kids attending W.E.S. had you as a PE teacher!  My name is Stacie Ishii and I was in Mrs. Akine’s 3rd grade class during her last year before her retirement, if that helps narrow down a timeline.  I read the Tribune Herald e-edition every morning at work and I just wanted to say that it was absolutely heartwarming to see such a terrific teacher brought to the spotlight of the local paper, where I normally see classmates arrested, or saddening news that a friend or family member has passed on.  One of my coworkers is always asking me questions about the places to go and stories about people and history of Hawai’i in preparation for her upcoming vacation this winter, and I told her, “These are the REAL people in Hawai’i, nevermind all the horror stories about mistreated tourists, people from my home town are the real deal.”.  Your story couldn’t have come at a better time!
Like many people, I don’t remember much of my childhood, but one of the few things I remember about attending Waiakea Elem. was the teachers.  Elementary school teachers have such a ‘magical’ role in a child’s life.  When kids are that age, they’re still easily influenced and seek approval from the adults they look up to.  A good teacher makes sure a child passes the class, but an outstanding teacher makes learning and succeeding something the child wants to do for themselves. I want to take a couple of minutes to tell you about why you’re one of the few teachers that stuck in my mind and always served as an inspiration and comfort of sorts whenever I was in need.
It was after A+ ended, and everyone was getting picked up by their parents.  My mom, who worked in Hilo but lived in Volcano, had me for that week and she was supposed to pick me up after she was done with her shift. After 5:30 I started getting a little nervous that she wasn’t there yet, but figured she stopped at the store or something before coming to pick me up. 6:00 came, and she still wasn’t there, and that’s when I really started to get scared. I wondered if something happened to her, if she got into an accident somewhere, or something happened to my little brother or sister and she had to tend to them first.  Then by 6:30 the sun was setting and it was starting to get dark and cold.  By then I started crying because I thought I was going to be waiting at school all night with the ghosts in the courtyard that the kids in class used to always talk about.  It seemed like forever since the last kids and teachers went home, and I really believed I was all alone.  Then I saw you leaving the office area heading towards the parking lot. I was in luck!  An adult!  A grown up that would help me find my mom!  After I told you how long I was waiting, you tried to call my mom’s work, and my dad’s home, I think, but no one answered.  So you stayed and waited with me, talking story with me the whole time, I think to keep my mind off of worrying and crying… half an hour or so until my mom finally pulled into the parking lot.  You even waited until I was in my mom’s SUV to start heading towards your own car.  You were my hero that day, Mr. Onishi, and I don’t think I ever honestly thanked you for that…
Turns out my mom had driven all the way to Kurtistown before she realized it was her week to take me.  When my dad found out the next week he was furious, I think after that he gave the office his pager number just in case he needed to be contacted again. I always had that memory in the back of my mind, but reading the article about you in the paper this week made me reflect on that night in a whole new light.  I work your typical 9-5 office job for Microsoft and I, like many people in the work force today, eagerly watch the clock for 5 to roll around, punch out, and hurry out the door before the boss can give us any more projects for the week.  I don’t even have a husband or kids to go home to yet (I’m only 27), so I guess my rush isn’t justified, save wanting to beat  freeway traffic… but you did have a family… you did have something worth going home to, and yet you stayed anyway.  Sure this may be a new day and age… I see articles all the time where people are investing less time into personal/family life, and more time solidifying their careers in Corporate America, but reflecting back on that night has, in a way, changed me.  I remember now where I came from.  I came from a small town in Hawai’i, away from the rush of city life, away from skyscrapers and tall office buildings, away from corporate round table meetings, where people would backstab and slander anyone for the chance to move up in the company.  I came from a place where people had REAL compassion for one another, where there was always a helping hand or a shoulder to lean on.  I think I forgot that somewhere along the way, but I remember now…  So thank you so much Mr. Onishi, for being my hero that night, and being such a great, supportive role model to me, and countless other Hilo children.
Best wishes to you and your ohana!
Stacie M. Ishii

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