on students all grown up …


A friend of mine recently sent word that one of my former students is a contestant on So You Think You Can Dance. That’s CRAZY!!! It got me thinking, though, about kids that I’ve taught over the years and what they’re doing now. When you make teaching a career, sadly, you never really know what happens to the vast majority of students that pass though your classroom on their journey through life.

Over the years I’ve learned that one of my first graders named Io, a young lady who lived at the Hari Krisha temple, came to school in beautiful saffron colored robes, and who had the most delicious looking vegetarian lunches, graduated from high school then ended up following a boy to Boston. In Boston, she lived on the streets near the Boston Commons where she, apparently, encountered a street gang that was pressing unaffiliated street kids into the commission of crimes. Because Io, apparently, was leading a resistance of sorts, authorities believe that the gang took her and had her murdered. She was stabbed multiple times. Io was in the very first class that I had ever taught. She had not attended Kindergarten and when she walked in the door she walked up to me and said, “My name is Io Nachtwey and I know how to do everything! Except drive a car of course …” She was a beautiful kid both inside and out. I’ve now been teaching for twenty-one years and I still think about Io a lot. Reading the article about the trial and her murder still makes my stomach hurt and makes me want to cry. When you teach littlies, you always think, “This one’s headed to Harvard” or “This one is going to do something wonderful some day …” You never think, “This one’s going to be a murder victim …” You just don’t …

I was back in Hawaii another time and was watching a TV news story about a young man who had broken into a home, beat up an eighty-two year old lady and robbed her for drug money. When they flashed a shot of the young man’s mug shot, I realized that he had been one of my fourth graders many years before. So sad … Even as early as fourth grade, there were signs that there was a good chance that life wasn’t going to turn out great for Kawika. All you can do, though, is help them as much as you can for the nine months that they’re with you and hope that they meet some good people along the way and make some good choices. Thankfully, most do! Unfortunately, that wasn’t in the cards for Kawika.

When I was a visiting student for a quarter at UCLA a while ago, a young lady (sadly I forgot her name) stopped me on campus one day and asked, “Did you used to teach second grade in Hawaii? You look exactly the same!” She, of course, was all grown up! One of my kids made it to UCLA!!! How cool is that???

Anyway … I just found out that a student that I had in the second grade is dancing on So You Think You Can Dance! Kupono was a great kid! I’ve never watched the show, but I guess I’ll have to tune in now! Take a look:

How cool is that? Crazy, huh?!?!?


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