An educational visit
"What number do you call in an emergency?" Hubbard Police Officer Mark Wai asked a group of kindergartners at North Marion Primary School during a visit with kindergartners on Nov. 17.
"70," shouted one kindergartner.
"99," guessed another.
A student realized 9-1-1 was the number that Wai was looking for and shouted it out, receiving a burst of praise. Soon, all of the children knew the number and were repeating it, and Wai had caught the kindergartners' interest. He held the children's attention with silly and serious questions for the half-hour visit, with a change in kindergarten classes midway through. Wai knows how to manage a classroom (or two or three at a time, as in this case).
"I just love teaching kids," Wai said.
He really does. Wai has a Bachelor of Arts in Education from Pacific University-Woodburn and has done a great deal of mentoring and student teaching. Once he became a police cadet at the age of 16, he realized he wanted to dress in blues. Yet his college experience deepened a long-held love of teaching, so he found a way to combine his two passions. Wai can often be found in the community offering public safety presentations in which he teaches students the basics, starting with 9-1-1.
When to Not to Call 9-1-1
After teaching the North Marion students what number to call in an emergency, Wai asked them a follow-up question.
"What's a good reason to call 9-1-1?" Wai said.
"When someone gets hurt," piped up Sottiara Roth.
Wai agreed that was a great reason and then asked: "Do we call 9-1-1 when we have homework?" and was greeted with a high-pitched chorus of, "No!"
"Do we call 9-1-1 when our back is itchy?" he asked and the children, who gave the same answer again in unison, a loud, drawn-out, "No!"
A Little About Police Work
In addition to his 9-1-1- instructions, Wai reminded students not to pet stray dogs, admitting that he'd once done so and gotten bitten. He also taught them what to do if they find a firearm: stop, walk back, and find a trusted adult. But before he got to those lessons, he made sure students knew a little about police officers.
"What do you think police officers do?" Wai asked the children.
"Police officers chase thieves and put them in jail!" Ariana Santiago Vazquez declared with certainty.
Wai didn't disagree.
Hefting a Police Vest
Wai offered several kindergarten volunteers the chance to try to lift his bulletproof vest, which features a Kevlar lining, and is far from light.
"Is it heavy?" he asked every child.
Some of the students pretended that it wasn't, straining the whole way simply to be contrary, although others admitted the weight was overwhelming for their thin arms, quickly handing it back.
A Sweet Farewell
At the end of one of the kindergarten class's visits, Instructional Assistant Chris German asked the children a time-honored question.
"What do you guys say?"
"Thank you!" the children called and then formed a single line and headed back to the classroom, waving at Wai, with a couple even running back and giving him a hug as a thank-you.
"It's so great to see the kids engaged, asking questions, and having fun," German said afterward.
Plus, the children walked away with key lessons from Wai that could one day save a life.
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