Lolo Letalu Matalasi Moliga: Former teacher and current governor of American Samoa

It often happens that talented educators go on to become effective politicians. One excellent example of this is Lolo Letalu Matalasi Moliga, a high school teacher who is currently serving as the governor of American Samoa in 2012.

Lolo was born in 1949 in Ta’u, Manu’a, in the Territory of American Samoa. His father was Moliga Sa’ena Auauan Moliga, a High Chief from Ta’u. His mother was Soali’i Galea’i, a native of both Olosega and Fitiuta.

Following his graduation from Manu’a High School, Lolo enrolled in Nebraska’s Chadron State College, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in education. He earned his master’s degree in public administration from San Diego State University in 2012.

After his graduation from Chadron, Lolo went back to his native Samoa and accepted a position as a teacher. Later he became the principal of Manu’a High School. He also served as the elementary and secondary education administrator for the American Samoan Department of Education. In addition, he became the director of the ASG Budget Office and served two terms as the chief procurement officer for American Samoa. Lolo’s talents as a politician were so evident, he was elected to the American Samoa House of Representatives for four terms and then was elected a senator. While in that governing body, he served as the Senate’s president. Then-serving Governor Togiola Tulafono appointed Lolo president of the Development Bank of American Samoa. As if all this wasn’t enough, Lolo is also the owner of his own construction firm.

In the 2012, Lolo was elected the 57th governor of American Samoa in a runoff election. Part of his effort as governor has been to increase the number and qualifications of the Department of Education teachers who staff the territory’s schools and to upgrade school facilities. He has also worked to reduce injuries to students while they are participating in sports programs. “I wanted to make sure that we provided the best possible options for our island,” Lolo explained. “This is not something small, it is affecting our people’s lives.”

Lolo resides in American Samoa with his wife, Cynthia Malala, and their four children.


Spanish-language teacher and 2005 National Hall of Fame Inductee Marilyn Barrueta of Virginia

Marilyn_BarruetaIt is always a wonderful thing when an exceptional educator is recognized for their endeavors. The recognition inspires the rest of us to work harder. I certainly experienced such inspiration when I read the story of Marilyn Barrueta, a Spanish-language teacher from Virginia. This innovative and tireless educator was inducted into the National Teachers Hall of Fame in 2005, after a lengthy and illustrious career that spanned 48 years.

Marilyn was born November 28, 1935. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois in 1957, and completed graduate work at several distinguished institutions, including Georgetown University, Johns Hopkins, and the University of Virginia.

For many years, Marilyn taught Spanish, Advanced Placement Spanish, and Spanish for Native Speakers at Yorktown High School in Arlington, Virginia. Prior to working at Yorktown High, Marilyn taught English as a second language, math, and social studies at Stratford Junior High School in Virginia. Marilyn also taught summer school sessions for Arlington’s adult education program.

“She challenged me beyond just the classroom,” remembered Marilyn’s former student Julianne Koch, “and when I look back at how much I have grown in the past several years, I know much of it is because of her.”

This most impressive educator was also greatly admired by her peers, and several took the occasion of her induction to express their admiration. “Most impressive to me,” expressed Bill A. Heller, Department Chair of Perry High School, “is Marilyn’s tireless pursuit of knowledge. Through the lens of her experience, she is able to examine and evaluate the most promising new research, techniques and materials, and integrate those new findings with the very best of her vast repertoire of highly effective classroom-tested activities.”

This chalkboard champion passed away on November 4, 2010, in McLean, Virginia. She was 74 years old.

Minnesota teacher, pioneer, and photographer Sarah Louise Judd

59686592_0_nocropThroughout American history there are many examples of frontier pioneers and innovators who became schoolteachers. One such young woman was Sarah Louise Judd.

Sarah Judd was born June 16, 1802, in Farmington, Connecticut. During her childhood there, she completed her education. In 1832, Sarah’s family moved to Marine Mills, Illinois, where her father established a tavern and her brothers became stockholders in the Marine Lumber Company.

Later, the Judd family became frontier pioneers and headed for the new territory of Minnesota. In 1846, Sarah founded the first school in Point Douglas, Minnesota, and later she founded the first school in Stillwater. The Stillwater school was established in a small vacant log cabin.

In January, 1849, the veteran schoolteacher married Ariel Eldridge. The couple had no children.

In her day, a French citizen named Louis Daguerre invented the ability to take photographs called “dagueereotypes.” The enterprising Sarah established a photography studio in her home town in Spring, 1848. In so doing, she became the first professional photographer in Minnesota.

Following a long illness, Sarah passed away in Stillwater on October 12, 1886, at the age of 84. She was buried in Fairwater Cemetery in Stillwater’s Washington County.


Creative writing teacher Robert Boone: 2009 Chicagoan of the Year

Robert BooneThere are many examples of talented teachers who win national acclaim for their work. One of these teachers is Robert (Bob) Boone, a creative writing teacher from Chicago, Illinois.

Robert was born and raised in Winnetka, Illinois, although he spent some of his childhood in Germany. He earned his master’s degree from Columbia University and his Ph.D. at Northwestern University in 1975.

Robert’s career as an educator began in 1964. In the early years of his teaching career, Robert taught fifth grade at Staten Island Academy in Staten Island, New York. He later relocated to Highland Park High School in Chicago. About thirty-five years ago he began working at the Glencoe Study Center, which he opened in 1979 to tutor high school dropouts who were seeking their GED. Robert founded outreach programs that emphasized developing the writing skills of inner-city students, particularly those who have not been successful in traditional educational settings.

In 1991, Robert founded a scholarship organization called the Young Chicago Authors, with the mission of encouraging teenagers to write. The program currently serves more than 5,000 teen authors each year. For this work, Robert was named “Chicagoan of the Year” by Chicago Magazine. In 2009, he was honored with an award from the Coming Up Taller Leadership Enhancement Conference at a White House event hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama.

Robert is the author of several books and textbooks, including Hack: The Meteoric Life of One of Baseball’s First Superstars: Hack Wilson (1978), Moe’s Cafe (2007), Forest High (2011), Back to Forest High (2015), and the acclaimed Inside Job: A Life of Teaching (2003).

Robert currently lives in Glencoe, Illinois, and has been married to his wife, Sue, for forty-six years. The marriage has produced three children and five grandchildren.

To check out Robert’s web site, simply click on this link: Writing Teacher Hangout.


Elementary school teacher and former First Lady of New Jersey Jean Byrne

18522023-largeThere are many examples of talented teachers who have also made a mark in the political world. Such is certainly the case with Jean Featherly Byrne, an elementary school teacher who also became the First Lady of New Jersey.

Jean was born in Newark, New Jersey, on October 17, 1926. Her parents were George and Jane (Crysler) Featherly. She was raised in nearby West Orange. After she graduated from West Orange High School, Jean enrolled in Bucknell University, where she earned her bachelor’s degree. Although she majored in Spanish, she garnered academic awards in English composition and literature. She later earned her master’s degree in education from New York University.

Jean taught second grade at an elementary school in West Orange, New Jersey. She also taught in schools in Harlem and Manhattan. Jean married Brendan T. Byrne in 1953. In those days, women teachers were not allowed to work when they were in the family way, so when Jean became pregnant with her first child in 1954, she was forced to resign from her teaching position. Jean and her husband had a total of seven children together.

Jean became the First Lady of New Jersey when her former husband, Brendan Byrne, was elected governor in 1974. The couple served their state until 1982. During her tenure as First Lady, Jean concentrated her energy on issues related to education and health care. One of her daughters was born with Down’s Syndrome, so Jean advocated tirelessly for research into the condition. She was a lifelong advocate of quality education and civil rights.

Jean and Brendan were divorced in 1993, and Jean settled in Princeton, New Jersey. She passed away from babesiosis, a tick-borne disease which affects the red blood cells, on August 9, 2015. She was 88 years old.