Normally in a school setting, a teacher is helping out students.
But on Feb. 15, after Watertown High School English teacher Allison M. Gilliam took a fall before morning announcements and hit her head on the corner of her desk, students jumped in to help her, spearheaded by 18-year-old senior Elijah B. Kekuewa and another student.
Elijah said he sits next to her desk, and Ms. Gilliam walked into the room and noticed that her television, which shows the clock and rotating messages of what is going on in the school, was already on.
He said her foot caught and she tripped. She fell and hit her face on the corner of the desk.
“I tried to ask her if she was OK and she said that she had a headache, so I went around her desk and I just dialed in the number and called down to the office and asked for help,” Elijah said.
When he called the office, he said that he told the office that Ms. Gilliam had fallen, and the office said they would send a staff member up to help. They then called a code blue.
Ms. Gilliam was surprised when they called a code blue.
“I literally said, ‘I’m not dying, I just need a nurse, just somebody to help me because I think I’m bleeding,'” she said.
He said when he noticed Ms. Gilliam was in distress, he got up and helped.
“I got up like I expect any person to do, and decided to help her,” he said. “It was just kind of like first instinct.”
Elijah said he was able to remain calm because of what he has been forced to deal with in his life.
“My past has a huge reflection on who I am today as a person,” he said. “The past me wouldn’t have reacted like that … truthfully I would’ve been shook.”
He said he was worried about his teacher, to the point where he asked Principal Chad Fairchild if he knew how Ms. Gilliam was doing, because he wanted to visit her if she was still in the hospital.
Another teacher said she had heard from Ms. Gilliam and that she wanted to pass on the word that she was OK and she’d be back in school the next day.
“All I remember telling myself is, ‘Wow, this lady’s a god, a goddess,'” Elijah said.
“I think (Ms. Gilliam) sees the best in me and wants the best for me, and she sees that I’m pushing myself so hard to try to get out of school this year to graduate, that she’s just trying to be my support,” he added.
Elijah said he felt like the interaction brought them closer, although he said he’s always liked Ms. Gilliam because she is energetic.
Ms. Gilliam said she has an orbital fracture of the right eye, and had a concussion. She was taken to the hospital by Assistant Principal Leslie Atkinson, and released that day.
“The fact that these kiddos remained very calm, and poised, and knew exactly what to do and did it without any sort of practice, or anything like that, that they had the presence and the mindset to do what they did, just blew me away,” Ms. Gilliam said. “It made me incredibly grateful, and thankful that I have the students that I have, because it showed me that these kids actually care about me as their teacher, that they were incredibly serious about making sure I got assistance and help.”
Ms. Gilliam said it was a team effort by her first-period class that was spearheaded by Elijah and another student.
One student ran out in the hallway to get help, Elijah called down to the office, another student made sure no one was recording a video or taking pictures, and students were coming up to her asking her if she was OK.
Ms. Gilliam said that if the students weren’t there, she probably would’ve just gotten help for herself.
“There is almost zero chance that that would’ve happened with this group of kids because there were others in here that would have jumped into action had those two not,” she said. “The fact that it was those two, doesn’t shock me because the other student I’m also very close with … I know that there would’ve been other students in the class that would’ve done that.”
She said that if it was an off-period where she doesn’t have students, she would’ve called herself.
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