Road to recovery

Instructor describes accident, return


Carol Cox

Tonya Mooney, gym instructor, speaks to elementary students during an assembly before her return.

Luke Deerinwater, Reporter

Tonya Mooney, an elementary gym teacher, faced a life threatening battle earlier this year that challenged her backbone.
In July, Mooney was hospitalized due to a crash on a 4×4 out in the county-side. Her right arm was caught under the vehicle, and she fell unconscious. She was alone for several hours. Mooney has no recollection of anything after the crash.
“The first 10 days I was in and out of seven surgeries,” Mooney said.
Mooney lost her right arm due to her injuries. While in the hospital friends and colleagues of Mooney came together to start the movement “Tonya Tough.”
Her “grit,” Mooney said, inspired not only adults to push through their own personal challenges, but also the students she helps.
“It’s hard from the time I wake up until I go to sleep,” Mooney said. “I had to change the way I cook, clean and practice hygiene.”
Mooney continues to come to school every day, showing her resilience.
“She was always encouraging and had a positive attitude,” Kade Nogle, a sophomore, said.
Sophomore Justin Perez agreed.
“She works eight hours of her day, five days a week, for 36 weeks to be there for students if they have a bad home life, bad parents or are even a regular child,” Perez said. “Regardless of whose child it is she is treats everyone the same. When I was in elementary, she was supportive of my classmates and motivated us to do the right thing when no one was looking.”
Mooney’s injury also impacted younger students. “I love her,” third grader Roman Henderson said. “I won a football game for her.”
Other third graders expressed their feelings.
“I was super sad,” Zaiden Acuna said.
When Mooney returned to work, the school held an assembly to inform the elementary students about her situation and the events that had transpired until that moment. “I asked Mrs. Huseman if I could talk to the students when I returned back to work,” Mooney said.
Students were allowed to ask her questions about her physical condition.
“I really wanted to ask Mrs. Mooney questions but I couldn’t because everybody else was asking questions,” Acuna said.
Mooney has received a “positive” return from her absence, but it wouldn’t be possible without her “grit” that empowers her students.

“Coming back was the best therapy I could ask for.¨ ”

— Tonya Mooney

“Ever since coming back I have gotten a positive return.”