Making the Difference

I’d say it’s safe to say that another year of high school graduation commencement exercises has come and gone. It was especially special for us as our daughter graduated—boy, how time flies! As the traditional graduation song played and the graduates walked into the stands to take their seats I eagerly looked beyond the crowd to get a glimpse of our baby girl. A graduating class of nearly 500 students made it difficult to pick her out from the hundreds of teal caps and gowns floating amidst. But like every other parent, my eyes recognized her unique smile and excitement as she took to the stage. I waved my hands like a crazy lady hoping she’d see me in the sea of an audience of parents equally proud of their graduate. She kept smiling, yet unaware of where I stood—I was that proud mother unashamed of continuously waving her child down. Her eyes grazed the field of onlookers and she finally locked eyes with me! “She sees me! She sees me!” I declared! My eyes filled with tears as she acknowledged me by waving back. I threw her a kiss! Words cannot explain the love and pride I felt! What a joyous occasion!

As the tradition goes here in Hawai’i, the celebration isn’t final until the “lei-ing” of the graduate with fresh flower leis or home-made specialty leis! Graduates are adorned with floaties, hakus, crowns, balloons, signs, banners, etc.—it is truly a unique custom. What was most amazing for me to witness was teachers celebrating their students—my daughter had teachers from elementary, middle and high school there to congratulate her! One encounter I observed was a teacher lei-ing a student and while hugging her, the student overwhelmed with gratitude started crying, thanking her teacher. As an educator, I could only imagine the yearlong academic work the two put into a course. I also imagined the mentoring this teacher provided to this student. It was apparent the student had a tremendous respect for this teacher that stood before her. Her mother even walked over and thanked her.

Too often, teachers go unrecognized and all the work they do throughout the years vested in these graduates go unnoticed. Well, this is a shout out to all the teachers—who unselfishly invest in our children daily. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! You are recognized and appreciated, and I hope you know that you do make the difference!

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