Death of a Young Friend

Perhaps I should title this Death of a Young Colleague, but I considered Ms. Attiogbe a friend first, and a colleague second.

I remember the day she showed up for work four short years ago. She was young and just out of college and that was her first year with her own classroom. She taught first grade and as I watched her work with her students, I became keenly aware that she was a special teacher – one who would touch many lives.

Ms. Attiogbe was soft-spoken and truly cared about her students. She collaborated well with me, a Reading Intervention Teacher, and we made progress with her children’s reading instruction. She had a knack for knowing what to say and how to say it to a troubled child. I marveled at her sweet spirit and her ability to guide young children into doing the right things and into wanting to do the right things, and in helping each other succeed.

Today I got emails and phone calls. Ms. Attiogbe had passed away.

I was shocked. I still am shocked. This young woman was a mere 26 years old. She had her whole life ahead of her. What in the world?

I heard she’d been diagnosed recently with Lupus and had even been in the hosptial recently.

We had a change in leadership last March. My workload became overwhelming with the new principal assigning more and more students until I could not handle the stress and strain any longer and I went out on disability leave less than two months after the new principal showed up.

Then a few weeks ago I got news of a teacher who had died after leaving work and going home to lie down. The school is one of “reform” and many changes and demands are being placed on its teachers.

Teaching is a very hard career choice these days. I won’t go into all the politics of how teachers are forced to do more testing than teaching, but I do know the stress is enormous, and when you are part of a group that is working harder than ever to turn a school around . . .  you need to stop and take stock of what is important for your own well-being.

I looked up Lupus online all day long. One of the most notable things I saw was that stress and overwork can lead to bad outcomes.

I cannot wrap my mind around what has happened. I just feel that a 26 year old woman was called home way too soon. She had the sweetest spirit. I found a video of her and I will place it in this blog. I don’t know if it will stay . . . if it’s taken down from youtube, or wherever it is, it may disappear. But here is the great loss I’m still trying to cope with today. Let me introduce you to Ms. Emilia Attiogbe – Teacher Extraordinaire:


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