Hot Dog Kills Teacher

Maureen Oleskiewicz (courtesy of ABC News)

Teaching can be a rewarding profession—maybe not financially, but in other meaningful ways—and it takes a rare breed to decide to educate our youth rather than pursuing more lucrative careers. In many cases, teachers teach because somewhere deep inside them, a passion for knowledge and for helping others burns so intensely that it simply cannot be ignored.

Such was the case for Maureen Oleskiewicz, a suburban 6th and 7th grade language arts teacher at Independence Junior High School in Palos Heights, Illinois near Chicago—a school she once attended as a student and returned to in order to “give something back.”

For the last six years, Maureen worked tirelessly to make learning fun for her students. This is the way she learned best and her goal was to give her own students a similarly positive experience. Nothing was too crazy as long as it was educational and fun. And if learning meant she had to make a fool of herself, so be it.

Maureen was up to the challenge, and everyone loved her for it.

Unfortunately, the life of this amazing teacher was cut short during a Chicago Cubs baseball game last Sunday.

A die-hard Chicago fan—and a “brainwashed Cubs fan,” according to her mother—Maureen went to as many games as possible each year. And last Sunday, she and her brother Martin had a chance to visit Wrigley Field together.

Before the game began, the siblings grabbed some food and went to their seats to enjoy the beautiful weather and to wait for the opening pitch.

Ironically, Maureen would not live to see that pitch.

The young teacher was enjoying a hot dog when suddenly, a large piece got lodged in her throat and she began to choke. At first, Martin thought his sister was joking around, but he quickly realized she was in serious danger when she fell to the ground, her hands grasping her throat.

EMTs and park staff arrived and Maureen was rushed to Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center, but it was too late. She went into cardiac arrest and sadly never recovered.

Maureen Oleskiewicz was 28 years old.

George and Margaret mourn their daughter’s passing (courtesy of Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune)

Losing someone so young—and in such a senseless way—is always a tragedy. But when that person is also an amazing teacher, someone devoted to our youth and so focused on improving our collective future, the loss takes on added significance, at least to me.

I work in education and believe me, we can’t afford to lose any skilled and passionate teachers. If anything we need many, many more.

More Maureens.

What’s funny is that even after her death, Maureen is still helping people. She was kept alive for several days—despite being brain-dead—so her organs could be harvested for others.

Maureen was an organ donor. Was there ever any doubt about this sweetheart of a woman?

“Someone got a liver, two people got kidneys and a 14-year-old girl got her heart,” her mother Margaret said. “I hope they take that and run with her kind and beautiful heart.”

That makes two of us, Mrs. Oleskiewicz. Farewell, Maureen…

Posted on May 12, 2013, in Perspectives and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I’m working too many hours I missed this story… It’s very sad to loose anyone especially a teacher. Brainwashed? Hey hey hey…. Cubs fans are NOT Brainwashed! The poor mother in her grief must have confused the Cubs with the White Sox’s. There’s a beer soddened brainwashed lot is there ever was one… 😉

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