Timothy made his way through an entire book. He read it to the specialist and to Dickens. Principal David Anderson walked into the class and heard Timothy getting better. He saw the boy slap hands with the specialist after making it through the book.
"Timothy . . . was just catching on to reading and was excited about reading," Anderson said. "I was in the classroom on Thursday and he was reading a book, and so excited that he was learning to read and just full of life."
The specialist gave Timothy another book to take home for the weekend and told Keahana to help him out, Dickens said. If he did well, he was to get a little gift.
"You could tell they were just buddies," Anderson said of the obvious bond between the brother and sister.
Unlike her brother, Keahana loved to bury her nose in a book. She loved letting words lift her imagination to the wonderful worlds and situations created in the pages, her teacher said.
"That was her great gift," Baird said. "The kids loved watching her read."
Although she began the year at Central Elementary School in St. Albans, Keahana joined her Shoals classmates in October. Baird remembered helping her with her Halloween costume and said her personality helped her fit in with the class right away.
Keahana faced her own challenges in the classroom, Baird said: writing was not her strong suit.
But she came running into the school from the bus last Monday morning with a big smile on her face and a piece of paper in her hand.
"She said, 'Mrs. Baird, Mrs. Baird, I made this for you!' " Baird said.
It wasn't homework or a piece of extra credit. It was a note.
The scrawled letters are barely contained by the lines on the page. The grammar is imperfect, and the spelling is hit and miss. But the meaning, the simple emotion conveyed by an energetic 8-year-old, could not be clearer.
"Dear teacher," it reads. " I love your teaching, I love this school and I love your math scills and your Spelling test and went to the Best School ever in my life and I have the Best teacher."
It ends, "love Keahana," followed by a heart and exclamation point.
Baird knew what today would bring. She was confident she could help her students pull through and they would help her do the same.
But that desk will still be empty.
"I really loved her, and I'm going to miss her with all my heart," Baird said.
Trying to move on
Extra counselors will be on hand today if teachers need help, Mullett said. Unfortunately, Mullett's team has a great deal of practice with situations of this nature.
"In the last five or six weeks, we've had five deaths in the school system," he said, to soft cries from some of the teachers and support staff at Shoals. "It seems as if this won't go away."
He wanted to reassure teachers he had confidence in them. With the help of his own staff, he said they would get through today. It won't be perfect, he said, but he knew they would do their best.
Things won't suddenly be back to normal Tuesday morning, Mullett said.
Questions could come up weeks from now as occurrences in students' lives trigger new emotions about the tragedy. The extra counselors won't remain at the school, but Mullett encouraged parents to contact the regular counselors or his own office if they need more support.
"We frequently encourage parents to call my office," Mullett said. "I'd certainly be willing to talk with them. That's an offer that's extended any time we have a crisis in the school system."
Students may want to write letters to Keahana, Timothy or the family, and that's OK, Mullett said.
The siblings' teachers both said they wanted to contact the family. Other teachers and community members suggested donating money for funeral arrangements, and the principal said he wanted to ask each student in Kanawha County to donate $1 to the family.
Both he and Mullett said teachers could have time away from school to attend the services.
Baird and Dickens have drawings, books and other work created by Keahana and Timothy that the family might want. They have stories about the children the family might want to hear.
They're going to talk about Timothy and Keahana but try to help their students move on. The upcoming haven of spring break and a week away from school could help return things to normal, Dickens said.
She'll try to make things business as usual once students return. But Timothy's empty desk won't make the job easy.
"He'll be gone," she said. "That'll be tough.
Contact writer Dave Boucher at 304-348-4843 or david.bouc...@dailymail.com. Follow him at twitter.com/Dave_Boucher1.