DOE’s longest-running teacher retires

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Margaret Wailehua is the Department of Education’s longest-running teacher.

Thursday, May 28, was her final day at Kainalu Elementary School where she’s educated our keiki for more than half a century.

It was a bitter sweet morning for Margaret who packed her final box, and tidied up her classroom one last time after 53-years on the job. All of them at Kailanlu Elementary School in Kailua.

“It feels really great, a little bit happy, a little bit of sad, but I’m looking forward to it,” she said.

She says she’ll miss her fellow teachers and of course her students, nne of whom were there Thursday.

No final goodbyes, no going away party. Those were all canceled.

“I’m not disappointed at all. I’ve had a really great time and work with great people.”

The only thing she wish she could change was how her final two months played out.

“We did have a Drive-Up Week where kids are able to drive up and open their trunk and we put their supplies in. So many of my students I was able to say aloha to this week and that was a nice experience to see them and their family.”

It’s a sweet conclusion to an amazing career that started with a simple question to a young principal.

“I drove by one day after graduating college and he said, ‘May I help you?’ And I said, “Yes, I’m looking for a job as a teacher I just graduated. And he said you’re hired. Come in sit down and tell me about yourself.”

The year was 1968 and that was the first of a half dozen principals Wailehua worked for Kim Maeda would be her last.

“It’s really fun we have students here and their parents and grandparents come by and say oh my god she was my teacher back in the day,” said Kainalu Elementary Principal Kim Maeda.

Maeda was planning a big sendoff with staff and students. The pandemic erased those plans.

And on Thursday, Miss Wailehua erased her own name from the white board for the very last time.

“It was exciting. It was very good. I’m known as the countdown lady here so the teachers always asked me how many more days until schools out so I do a countdown so when I got down to zero it felt pretty good to wipe that off.”

After 53 years, Wailehua says it’s time for the next phase, which will include more time with family and more time traveling.

With her boxes packed and her room cleaned. it was time to hand in her keys and move on.

As for one final thought or lesson to offer for colleagues and students, past and present, she said:

“Whatever it is, whatever the roadblocks are, whether it happens to be a rainy or cloudy day, just keep swimming. There’s always another bright shiny day coming along.”

As for what she won’t miss, she said the same thing that most students would say: the test scores and of course, the homework.


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