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2019 TTOY instills “confidence and mindset” that “anything is possible”

2019 Territorial Teacher of the Year (TTOY), Jordanna Maga
DOE celebrates its “Exemplary Teachers”

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — “I am the product of public education,” declared 2019 Territorial Teacher of the Year (TTOY), Jordanna Maga, during her speech at a Department of Education celebration last Friday evening at Tradewinds Hotel, where the Tafuna High School Mathematics teacher dedicated the TTOY honor to her late mother, Maupati Tiso Panapa Maga — who taught in public school for many years.

The 2018-19 Exemplary Teachers of the Year Celebration, also honored and celebrated the other thirteen public school teachers who vied for the 2019 TTOY title that officially begins Jan. 1, 2019.

At the celebration, Tafuna High principal Mrs. Tutuila Togilau provided educational background and other information about Maga, saying that the 2019 TTOY instills in her students “the confident and mindset” that “anything is possible”.

Togilau also shared with the audience — which included Lt. Gov. Lemanu Palepoi Sialega Mauga (who is also the acting governor), Education director Dr. Ruth Matagi-Tofiga, as well as educators and family members — how Maga works hard to make sure that her students succeed.

“Despite the difficulties and vigorous math class that she dishes out, she has the ability to engage and motivate her students to learn and challenge themselves to be effective problem solvers,” said Togilau of Maga who started teaching at Tafuna high in 2011.

Maga has a “trusting relationship” with her students and this is a “reflection of her passion, positivity, dedication and commitment” to the work, according to Togilau, who added that Maga is “truly an inspiration. Its truly and honor working with this young woman”.

According to ASDOE information shared with the news media, Maga has been a teacher for 8 years and she teaches AP Calculus, Pre-Calculus, Probability and Statistics, and Geometry at Tafuna High.

Maga earned her Bachelor of Science in Applied Mathematics in 2008 from Hawaii Pacific University (HPU) and her Masters of Education in Secondary Education in 2011 also from HPU.  Her teaching career began in the summer of 2009 at McKinley High School in Honolulu.

In her speech, Maga first congratulated all of the “amazing teachers” present - referring to the other 13 teachers who were also recognized earlier in the ceremony for being selected as School Teachers of the Year (STOY).

Maga, who is the STOY representing Tafuna High, told her colleagues, “you represent excellence in teaching here in American Samoa” and everything that “is good in this profession.”

In celebrating teachers, Maga looked back to her journey to becoming a teacher. “Like many teachers, I was once a student. And like many students, I remember vividly the teachers and educators who created positive memories and various experiences for me,” she said. “They encourage me to challenge myself.”

Looking at the audience, Maga saw many of those educators who are still in the profession, “serving and working tirelessly for the children of American Samoa,” she said. For example, some of them are now leaders in ASDOE, some of them serving as school principals, others serving at various ASDOE offices and “some who are still holding down the fort making a difference at Tafuna High School.”

“So glad to see some of you... because although, you’re no longer my teacher, counselor or principal, your impact deserves recognition and praise,” she said.

“It is because of you I’m able to stand up here and give this speech — I am the product of your hard work and your commitment to learning. I am the product of public education,” she said to loud applause from the audience.

She then recalled that when she was out of high school she didn’t have a solid idea of what she wanted to do. She explained that she was so sure about majoring in political science — following in her late father’s footstep. And politics was one of her favorite subjects in high school.

When she entered college, Maga admitted that she kept changing her major — from studying politics to business, which didn’t last. “It took some time for me to finally find what I wanted to pursue,” she said, noting that after completing her undergraduate study, she decided to pursue engineering.

While in the process of planning this venture, “circumstances here at home required me to return back here as soon as possible. instead of engineering school, I decided to look at other options,” she explained. “So my journey took a different route.”

As for the teaching profession, she admitted that, “I had no intention of becoming a teacher. In fact many of the things you see in great teachers today, are the same things that discourage me from becoming one.”

She explained growing up watching her mother, “dedicated much of her life to public education.” She watched her mother “stay up late at night” planning and preparing, as well as “working overtime and long hours knowing fully well those hours won’t be compensated.”

And when traveling, her mother would pack a separate suitcase filled with three-inch binders, then books and folders, “bringing her work with her on family trips,” Maga recalled to an audience eagerly listening to her details of becoming a teacher.

“I witnessed first hand her commitment to her students. The type of commitment that was very concerning to me, as a child to the point that she would choose work...over us, her children,” Maga said of her mother.

“As a young adult and as her child, that level of commitment bothered me a bit,” she said, noting that she’s sure that family members accompanying teachers to the ceremony know what she’s talking about.

“I never understood that level of unwavering commitment and dedication until I became a teacher myself,” she explained, adding that she now understands and “appreciates the amount of work, time, energy and commitment teachers put in on a daily basis to make sure that their students have the best possible learning experience.”

She also recalled returning home the next day after her college classes ended and starting teaching the “very next day” after “our principal at the time told me at the time that they were so short of teachers, that they needed me to start right away.”

On her first day as a teacher, Maga said she walked into the classroom and her students “thought I was a transfer student but I told them I was their teacher and I knew I was going to have my hands full.”

“And I asked God every single time, ‘why me’ and ‘why teaching’, especially considering that I’m very impatient, stubborn and sometimes pushy,” she said with a little giggle, and laughter from the audience, adding that these are “qualities you probably don’t want in a teacher. However, God works in ways that you never understand and He sees through it all.

Fast forward to 2018, “here I am, still here, still teaching”, she said and declared that “I’m honored and beyond humbled to have been selected” as 2019 TTOY.

“This honor really doesn't belong to just me. I wouldn’t be here, standing up today, if it weren’t for all the people who supported and guided me,” she said and acknowledged her school, including principal, staff and PTA as well as the entire student body. She also expressed appreciation to her church and family, including family members who accompanied her to the ceremony.

Maga then paid tribute to her late parents, especially “my mother, whom I owe all my success to, the one who is always there for me. She taught me how to live, taught me everything I know, taught me to always to be grateful no matter the circumstance. She taught me how important this profession is. Thank you mom for your love and this one is dedicated to you.”

She acknowledged all the “amazing teachers” in attendance and their professional ability to teach students.

It was suppose to be a traditional slow Samoan song for the Siva Samoa after recognition and awards were presented to five Regional Teachers of the Year (RTOY), who represents five regions for the local Department of Eduction for the Territorial Teacher of the Year. However, DJ/Singer Ulale, opted for a faster-beat Samoan song, and — as seen in this photo — one of the three RTOY teacher (on far left) made it much more exciting for the audience during last Friday night’s ASDOE’s sponsored 2018-19 Exemplary Teachers of the Year Celebration at Tradewinds Hotel.  The siva became even more fun not only for the teachers but the audience who cheered and gave money. See Samoa News later this week for more on the RTOY teachers. [photo: FS]