Emergency Episode: #FlyingWhilePoC with Sabrina Suluai-Mahuka, 2021 American Samoa Teacher of the Year

Space Camp was soooooo much fun. Gerardo made new friends, solidified relationships with old ones, and the general feeling of the 2021 State Teachers of the Year was positivity, solidarity, joy, and a newfound exuberance about what education and educators could be. Though not every Teacher of the Year could be present, it was a special gathering of special spirits that could have lived on as a pristine moment of joy and perfection in an increasingly traumatized, frightened and uncertain world.

Until departure day, when American Samoa 2021 Teacher of the Year Sabrina Suluai-Mahuka learned that her flight home was canceled. She was told abruptly and in no uncertain terms that there was no hotel provided, no ground transportation, no meal vouchers (it seems relevant to state here that the only restaurant in the Huntsville airport had its kitchen closed). Disappointed and discouraged, Sabrina braced herself for a long night ahead, probably sleeping with one eye open as she awaited a flight home.

Moments later, she learned that our colleague Anthony Coy-Gonzalez, the Ohio Teacher of the Year with a sweet smile and even sweeter disposition, was offered hotel, transport, and meal vouchers “before I even had a chance to ask.” Good friends, the two of them shared experiences and both realized that implicit bias had once again reared it’s ugly head.

After a flurry of social media posts and DM exchanges between American Airlines and Sabrina and her allies, a brief “investigation” yielded a borderline insulting result. Sabrina, however, has remained resolute in her determination to see systemic change happen.

With Kev out of town, Gerardo is joined by guest host Brooke Brown, 2021 Washington State Teacher of the Year, to share Sabrina’s story. Please listen to the end, as there are ways that you too may #StandWithBrina.