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Gifted teacher Mary Anna Grimes ready for a new chapter in life

By Staff | Jun 28, 2018

While teaching at Sacred Hearts School, Mary Anna Grimes involved the students in Hokule‘a’s Malama Honua Worldwide Voyage.

LAHAINA – Most of us remember that special teacher; the one we recall for the rest of our lives, taking us beyond the classroom on a voyage we never thought we would experience and opening our minds to new worlds.

Mary Anna Grimes literally is that person.

For the many students at Sacred Hearts School passing through her eighth grade class since the turn of the century, it has been an unforgettable learning adventure.

Grimes lowered the walls and raised the sails. The tack was not always smooth, and the course was sometimes unknown; but, as her educational stewardship at Sacred Hearts comes to a close after 18 years, Mary Anna is celebrating.

There have been parties and assemblies in her honor; and, in May, she attended her last eighth grade graduation ceremony.

During one assembly, she said, “students told of the things I had done for Sacred Hearts. To hear the legacy spoken from the mouths of holy innocents touched me in a way I didn’t know was possible.”

Her contributions have been inspiring and numerous, like, but certainly not limited to, “bringing the Worldwide Voyage of Hokule’a to their consciousness.”

In 2009, Grimes explained, “I was invited to join a Mahalo Sail aboard Hokule’a for dedication to teaching the curriculum of Kaho’olawe and ‘Navigating Change’ created through Polynesian Voyaging Society (PVS). During that four-hour sail from Sand Island to Diamond Head, I heard of the idea to sail Hokule’a around the world. My life’s course changed at that moment and to be a part of that destination became my mission.”

Her vision focused in 2012.

“I received an invitation from PVS to apply to be one of the teachers to write the curriculum for the Worldwide Voyage. I was one of 20 teachers statewide chosen to fulfill that task; so the next two years my life revolved around monthly three-day trips to Oahu to collaborate with 19 brilliant teachers who tried our best to answer Nainoa’s (Thompson) challenge to ‘Revolutionize Education,’ ” Grimes advised.

She was the education specialist on board the Hikianalia, sister Wa’a to Hokule’a, on Leg 4 of the Worldwide Voyage to Samoa.

“In June 2016, I went to New York as Land Crew and followed Hokule’a for a month to Mystic Seaport, CT, and Martha’s Vineyard doing educational outreach,” she said.

All along, her students joined the Worldwide Voyage virtually.

“There was not a day that my sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders specifically, and generally, the entire student body, K-8, did not follow the voyage,” she explained.

Miki Tomita, PVS education director, recognized Grimes in an e-mail to Lahaina News: “Mary Anna is one of the most dedicated and inspiring teachers we have had the pleasure of working with during the Malama Honua and Mahalo Hawai’i sails. Her work in supporting her students and other learners in the community is unparalleled.

“Mary Anna,” Tomita continued, “is an accomplished teacher, sailor, community activist and lifelong learner, and the Polynesian Voyaging Society is proud to call her a crewmember.”

Sam Low, author of “Hawaiki Rising,” recalls Mary Anna during the summer of 2016: “To look into Mary Anna’s eyes is to see joy, wisdom and deep spirituality. It was just plain fun to work with her to bring Hokule’a to Martha’s Vineyard.

“She is a wonderful teacher and communicator; and, if you are on a canoe and need a hand, she is always right there to help,” the Harvard anthropologist added.

Establishing a sense of place initiative on campus, Grimes and her learning corps ventured into Honokowai Valley on numerous occasions to help with restoration efforts.

Ekolu Lindsey, president of Maui Cultural Lands, has observed Mary Anna’s contributions.

“Utilizing a platform of Hawaiian Culture, Voyaging, and Hawaiian Values/Beliefs,” Mary Anna has led by example, Lindsey said.

Parents and students appreciate Ms. Grimes as well.

Joanna Stockham’s three children were students of Grimes.

“Mary Anna was an out of the box thinker and teacher. Don’t get me wrong – she covered the basics… ask any kid who had to take her parts of speech test! But she went beyond the basics, way beyond.

“She got her kids out of the classroom as often as possible,” Stockham recalled. “Out into the valley to work the land, out into the water to learn how to sail, off the island to explore Molokai.”

Stockham’s son, Carter, graduated from Sacred Hearts in 2014 and Lahainaluna High School this year. He is headed to Arizona State University in the fall.

He described his experience in Room 8: “She knew each kid’s potential and ability, and she pushed us to be our best. She never accepted mediocrity; and, in the end, we all created work that we were really proud of.”

Mariah Gill, a Yale graduate with a Master’s Degree in Environmental Management, is another Grimes success story.

“All I can say,” Gill commented, “is that Mary Anna changed the lives of so many students – she really challenged me and changed the way I looked at school, and what it meant to be a student. I’m forever grateful.”

In her final comment, Stockham was more familiar.

“Room 8 was a place to celebrate your accomplishments, but also a place of refuge for students who found life after middle school to be less than rewarding.

“More mother than teacher, Mary Anna truly cared about her students, and her door was always open for them. She will be greatly missed in Lahaina, but the truth is, she will always be available to her ‘kids.’ “

With the tides changing, Grimes is not in the idle mode.

“The winds shifted the last two years at Sacred Hearts, and I have been given the opportunity to change sails to reach my new harbor. I’m ready,” she concluded.