A story of compassion, love, hope and determination in the third grade

// Posted By Janie Rohlfing

As hard as it is to relive the past five months, we feel it is important to share our story. It is a story of compassion, love, hope and determination. One of the third-grade teachers at Richardson Elementary, Mrs. Cynthia Kaleikau is a true hero to our family–specifically our son, Dominic. This teacher helped our son and family find strength and hope in a time of hardship. Mrs. Kaelikau is a teacher who has gone above and beyond and is the definition of committed to her students.

On Dominic’s birthday (March 17th), what was supposed to be an innocent night at a trampoline park turned into a nightmare. Dominic broke his tibia, both growth plates with his knee muscle completely flipping over. Dominic had three different surgeries (one of which was over 12 plus hours). His knee muscle was flipped back into place, a clamp installed to hold it together and external fixators installed on the side of his leg to stretch his growth plates — with a rod holding it all together. Despite a catheter for pain, Dominic had to stay in the hospital for five days because the pain was so unbearable, also coping with a high fever resulting from all the stress on his body.

Every day was a struggle for this sweet boy as he adjusted to life in a hospital bed in our living room. He was restricted to the bed, no movement. He had to finish third grade in his hospital bed, isolated and confined. Mrs. Kaleikau asked to be Dominic’s homebound teacher, visiting our home everyday after the school. She provided us with the work and lesson plans to keep him caught up with his class. Not only was she doing his schooling, she gave Dominic something to look forward to everyday during this hard time. She came to our home and lifted Dominic’s spirit with her familiar face and caring personality. She was patient yet still pushed Dominic to his full potential. Mrs. Kaleikau had his classmates make cards and notes, showing Dominic that he had peers supporting and caring for him from afar. For a 9-year-old boy, this meant the world. She did not just teach Dominic–she cared and was compassionate to our family. Richardson Elementary staff is phenomenal–from the cafeteria staff sending home cards of encouragement to Principal Lisa Detig ensuring Dominic knew he was cared for at school.

When Dominic was able to be moved to a wheelchair, we visited his class. Mrs. Kaleikau had a large banner with students waiting to welcome Dominic. I will never forget the look on his face when we walked into his classroom. He felt so special, and you could see tears in his eyes. It was so amazing to know my son was with such an amazing teacher. Mrs. Kaleikau is the reason students thrive through adversity. She defines what a teacher should be and how teachers can help drive a student’s confidence. I am forever grateful for the dedication and service of Mrs. Kaleikau to my son and family. She is a true gift to the R-7 School District and my family.

Submitted by: Chris, Cortney, Dominic and Mia Moreno

(Dominic just started in fourth grade and Mia is in second grade)

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