Beloved teacher aide honoured after sudden death
WHEN Jodie Maluga sat down with a book next to her students, she oozed the kind of magic that easily turned a jumble of letters into a complete sentence for young minds.
The Cranbrook State School teacher aide had a gift, leaving her own special mark on more than 4000 children she taught over 10 years in Townsville.
Her passion was palpable, her decisions always calculated, and her love for learning infectious.
It is all these defining features that will be dearly missed by her close family, friends and students after she died suddenly on December 2, leaving behind her husband Len, and sons, Conner, 17, and Jackson, 14.
She died unexpectedly after suffering health issues following an operation.
The 52-year-old met her husband as a teenager, exchanging love letters when they endured a long-distance relationship, eventually moving to North Queensland together to fulfil his career.
Her two boys were the light of her life, and a true miracle, when she unexpectedly fell pregnant twice after being told she could not have children.
She made sure her sons knew how loved they were, by saying "I love you to the moon and back" each day, a saying that became distinctly her.
It was when Mrs Maluga's firstborn was enrolled at Cranbrook State School, directly opposite their home, that she became involved in the school community, which she never left.
Principal Jeff Capell said Mrs Maluga's gift of teaching children how to read was discovered while she was working there part-time in 2010.
Over the years, she helped more than 4000 students master the skill through the Reading Intervention Team, and inspired her colleagues along the way.
Many students also drew their own tributes to Mrs Maluga after her death, which lined the walls of the school hall.
Cohort leader, Nicole Lindgren, said Mrs Maluga was the glue that held their team together.
"When Jodie fell ill she sent our team a message apologising," Ms Lindgren said.
"We loved Jodie and valued her … each student was a treasure to Jodie."
Mrs Maluga's best friend and colleague, Amanda Ihle, beamed about her friend when she spoke at her funeral, saying she was her own "cheer squad".
"I was always amazed by Jodie's ability to teach me as well as the children," Ms Ihle said.
"She revelled in the progress of her kids."
The duo were often together on many girls' nights out, where Mrs Maluga could always be found on the dance floor until lockout.
Mrs Maluga's brother, Robert Lakin, said he would miss his sister's advice, and voice of reason, but recited her words in a promise to carry them on.
"I love you to the moon and back," he said through tears.
Originally published as Beloved teacher aide honoured after sudden death