American Samoa teachers take a moment to honor one of their own
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Although it was a Department of Education celebratory event to honor teachers last week, a moment of sadness swept the audience members that night when it was time to remember one of their own: Samoana High School Teacher of the Year, Fuaimamao Mageo who passed away last month.
Mageo’s passing came days after the completion of the Territorial Teacher of the Year competition, hosted annually by ASDOE since 1979.
During the 2018-19 Exemplary Teachers of the Year celebration last Friday evening at Tradewinds Hotel, a moment of silence to honor and remember Mageo was called by master of ceremonies, Samuel Uhrle, ASDOE’s assistant director for the Office of Testing, Evaluation & Accountability.
Uhrle, who is also the 2018-2019 Teacher of the Year Steering Committee chairperson, said Mageo’s “untimely passing has set a void in ASDOE and in particular, Samoana’s family of educators”.
Mageo was one of the fourteen School Teachers of the Year (STOY). Each of them received special awards and gifts including a $250 “stipend” from ASDOE. While the other 13 STOY — including the 2019 Territorial Teacher of the Year, Jordanna Maga — were present to accept their special awards and gifts, Mageo’s awards were presented to Rep. Ve’evalu Meauta Mageo, who attended the ceremony.
Also honored that evening were the five Regional Teachers of the Year (RTOY) representing the Manu’a, East, Central, Midwest, and West regions, or districts, in the territory. They were selected from the STOY. Each RTOY received special awards, gifts and a $500 “stipend” from ASDOE.
The 2019 TTOY received special awards, gifts, and a $1,000 ASDOE “stipend”.
Prior to the awards being presented, ASDOE’s Teacher Quality Office assistant director, Diana S. Ameperosa provided a brief history of the program — since 1979 and over the years — saying the department has made changes to further improve the program, including the recognition of teachers.
Two years ago, according to Ameperosa, ASDOE revisited the program and “realized there were a lot of missing pieces” and thereafter, it was decided for the “teachers to compete in three different tiers” — beginning at the school, then regionally, and finally the territorial selection of the teacher who will represent American Samoa as its TTOY.
In her special remarks at the start of the celebration, Education director Dr. Ruth Matagi-Tofiga, congratulated the TTOY, as well as the RTOY and the STOY. She commended the ASDOE steering committee for their work as well as the five-member 2019 TTOY Selection Committee, made up of individuals outside of ASDOE.
She told the audience that teachers are the hope of a government that students are well educated for the future. “And that’s your challenge,” she told the teachers being honored that evening. “Your being here... is a tribute to the hard work that you put out in the field.”
Matagi-Tofiga noted that “most of us, talk about money as a reward” for teaching, “but I know most of you personally, you are beyond that, it's your calling, you took that very seriously.”
Lt. Gov. Lemanu Palepoi Sialega Mauga, who is also the acting governor, noted the important role teachers play in the lives of students, the future leaders of the territory. Within a 24-hour period, a teacher spends more time with the student, than the parent, he said.
“And we are talking from first grade to 12th grade” in which the teacher is there for the student, he added, and thanked not only the teachers but also their families for their continued support of family members who are educators.
He said the government, parents, and the community depend on teachers to educate its future generation.