Newly-arrived Filipina teacher dies in Maryland car crash

By RODNEY J. JALECO – FORT WASHINGTON, MARYLAND – She arrived in America August 22 filled with hope and expectation of the “American Dream”. Barely a week later, Filipina teacher Erlinda Camitan Leuterio – Ellen to friends – was dead, killed in a fatal car crash on a lonely Maryland back-road.

Photo: Ellen Leuterio, in striped, long-sleeve shirt, pose with fellow teachers at the front door of their spacious, two-storey staff house in Fort Washington, Maryland (Courtesy of RODNEYJALECO)

Ellen, 58, was supposed to be part of a batch of 92 Filipino teachers hired by Prince Georges County public schools for this school year. The main group arrived here as early as July.

But friends here say, in retrospect, fate seemed to hold her back from leaving. She was delayed due to an undisclosed visa problem. And on the day she was finally scheduled to leave, Northwest reportedly refused to let her aboard – because her ticket wasn’t fully paid. Ellen carried some cash, enough to settle her air fare. She was in a hurry.

Ellen arrived on a Friday and made it just in time to report at the High Bridge Elementary School in Bowie, Maryland on Monday, Aug. 25. Students were not expected back until Sept. 2 but schools here were a beehive of preparation for the start of the new school year. She was a special education teacher and would have taught autistic kids.

From most accounts, Ellen made quite an impression with both school officials and her fellow teachers. She has three masteral degrees – a Masters of Special Education (specializing in communication disorder), Masters of Education Major in Filipino, and a Masters of Education Major in English.

Ellen used to teach at the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM).

She decided to attend a parents’ meeting on the evening of Aug. 28 and asked her car pool to take her there.

On the way home, their vehicle was struck by another near the intersection of Livingston and St. Bernabas Roads – killing both Ellen and the driver of the other vehicle, described as a male teenager. The accident happened around 8:30 PM, according to police reports. Authorities are still investigating what caused the crash.

Ellen’s companions – Rose Taguba, her husband and their child – were rushed to the hospital but are out of danger and now said to be recuperating in their home.

Ellen lived with three other teachers at a spacious staff house along Strathaven Circle here.

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