The Retirement Of Mrs. Boylan

Dan Boylan
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Wednesday - July 27, 2005

The kids went back to school last week at Kaimiloa Elementary School. Mrs. Boylan was not there to greet them. Glo Boylan, known to my 11 regular readers as the high-strung Filipina, missed the first day of school for the first time in 34 years.

Yep. The old girl retired. After more than three decades of teaching she joined the 1,300 or so Hawaii public school teachers who brought home their book bags for the last time this summer. They packed up their files, gave their lesson plans and room decorations to some of the new hires, and walked out into the sunshine.

“Free at last! Free at last! Oh what a joy it is to be free at last!”

On Kaimiloa’s first day last week, Glo sat on the end of the couch in our TV room reading the morning paper. She turned to me, smiled broadly, and said: “For the first time in 34 years, my stomach isn’t tied up in knots on the first day of school. And I can’t believe I slept until 7.”

For a lot of years, she got up at 4 a.m. It’s true. Her first teaching job was at Makaha Elementary School out on the Waianae Coast. It was as far from our basement apartment in St. Louis Heights as you could get. But in 1971, teaching jobs were hard to come by, so Glo took it — and arose each morning at 4.

She made that long trip (shortened somewhat by our move to Pearl City in 1976) for 14 years. Many of the teachers out there were making similar long treks to work each day.

Most of them were also young and in their first jobs. They developed a close camaraderie, cared about each other, cared about their students.

Oh, but Mrs. Boylan wasn’t all sweetness. She could make a student dance. I discovered that once on Lanai. A young hotel worker there gave me a ride to the airport. He told me he’d grown up on the Waianae Coast, but that he’d dropped out of Waianae High School and gone to work.

“I was kolohe den. No can keep still. Always getting in trouble,” he said. “Da teacha no can handle me.

“But I no can fo’get one teacha. Wheneva I stand up, she come grab my ear, and put me where I belong.”

I grew apprehensive: “Do you remember her name?”

“Neva fo’get her. Mrs. Boylan.”

Ever since that conversation, I’ve had nightmares about a generation of Makaha kids with deformed ears, “t’anks to Mrs. Boylan.”

Twisted ears aside, my memory of Glo’s teaching career will always be of her unrelenting labor. She worked and worked – and then worked some more.

Her father would often describe how, on the plantations, you worked “like a jackass.” His daughter, as a public school teacher for 34 years, worked “like a jackass.”

Glo never left her job at school. It came home with her every night, every weekend. She devoted her evenings to papers and lesson plans, charts for her classroom walls, reports and grants that had to be written. My enduring image of her teaching career will be of her hunched over a Japanese folding table in the television room, making something for school the next day.

She’d put in two, three, four hours a night — often more. Glo’s the hardest working woman I’ve ever known. Hawaii’s taxpayers got their money’s worth out of her several times over. But in 34 years, through three strikes, I never heard her complain about her salary.

She wept over the broken homes from which her students sometimes came; she complained about a principal or two with whom she worked; she wished for smaller class sizes; and she felt the demands of No Child Left Behind verged on the ridiculous.

Before she was done, Glo took her skills and her boundless energy from Makaha to Pohakea Elementary, Kaleiopuu, the Leeward District Office and Kaimiloa Elementary: all schools in the Ewa Beach or Leeward District, the area where she had received her own education.

And at every stop she found fellow teachers who worked every bit as hard as she. Glo praised them generously, noted their intelligence and savvy.

So she’s retired now, brought all that energy home. I’m waiting for Glo to paint the entire house one afternoon, to plant every inch of both front and back yard in her beloved flowers, to sort out my stacks of papers — throw the important ones away — and clean every corner of my home office.

I, in the meantime, will be guarding my ears.

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