My first experience with Dr. Rita Inos was as a teacher aide going through the NMC School of Education. I had heard the name of our newest Commissioner, and that she was going to be visiting our class to speak about multi-culturalism. What I didn't know was that I would be introduced to one of the most formidable forces of education, probably in my lifetime. She walked in, as she did every other time I'd ever seen her, with that smile! I'll never forget her beautiful smile because she carried it through budget cuts, explosive principal's meetings, and countless other trials that we were to face. People say her laughter was infectious. I only remember that it had a way of calming even the most tense of circumstances. She wore her smile with grace, and I will always miss seeing it. She possessed an uncanny ability to remember people's names, even those she'd never met. In our class that evening, I asked a question and she responded, addressing me by name and referencing my school. I was an aide, and the commissioner knew what I did and where I worked and who I was! I was impressed with her memorization skills, but learned later that it was her character to remember people and not just facts.
Dr. Inos believed in cultivating local resources and worked her lifetime to encourage indigenous people to take charge in their community. She was a proponent of programs that enhanced student awareness of language and culture and supported teachers in the pursuit of content knowledge expertise. There is no doubt that Dr. Inos was intelligent, she made it a point to model lifelong learning and reciprocity. She was constantly giving back her talents, skills and time. And even when she was ill, she found ways to share herself, never completely leaving the system and the people in it who loved her. The CNMI lost a pioneer today, but her legacy lives on in those who remember the vision she started. Adios auntie Rit, thank you for your leadership, your guidance, your love, your laughter...your smile. As you hasten to meet the angels, know that when the tears eventually dry and the ache of our grief finally lessens, your legacy will remain strong.