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Ke Kula Kamali‘i Pu‘uwai La‘a, Early Learning Center at Sacred Hearts to hold open house

By Staff | Sep 13, 2018

Graduates from the Ke Kula Kamali‘i Pu‘uwai La‘a, Early Learning Center at Sacred Hearts School enter kindergarten ready to learn.

LAHAINA – At the esteemed Ke Kula Kamali’i Pu’uwai La’a, Early Learning Center at Sacred Hearts School, Ms. Vanessa and Mrs. Nicole groom their “littles” to transition to kindergarten gracefully with their unique teaching styles. They creatively equip these keiki with a solid educational foundation to charge into kindergarten with ease and confidence.

“Ms. Vanessa takes them farther than anyone expects them to go in the areas of academics,” said Nicole Okada fondly of her teaching partner.

Mrs. Nicole, often spotted shedding tears of joy at any and all school functions, or her distinctive giggles – heard from across the room, which make you laugh along with her – is the teacher of the three-year-old Early Learning Center program.

Her love of all things creative transfers over to her many teaching gifts. One is her talent of making something beautiful out of nothing special during her many art lessons, garden play or organizing her classroom in unique ways – with the kids’ help, of course.

Her motto is that “if the kids come home clean, I am not doing my job!”

Little Emma Premack noted, “I like Mrs. Nicole, because she lets me play in the dirt!”

The Early Learning Center as a whole encourages hands-on learning through outdoor time within nature, utilizing tactile teaching methods. A cute favorite field trip mentioned by Mrs. Nicole is a journey to the grocery store, where she and the kids look for different things on her checklist, like a treasure hunt!

When these tiny keiki graduate from Mrs. Nicole’s three-year-old level, Ms. Vanessa, head ELC teacher with over 20 years of teaching experience, takes over leading an impactful pre-kindergarten program that offers a strong foundation in core subjects along with her assistant teacher, whom the students fondly refer to as “Miss Ida.”

Ms. Vanessa has a talent for teaching art, performing arts and multi-cultural studies actively, as the kids spend the latter half of the year rigorously studying Hawaiian-based chants and choreography for the annual May Day Performance.

A talented hula dancer, Ms. Vanessa said, “It is incredible to watch these little kids learn their ABCs, numbers, timing, rhythm through song, use of instruments, stomping and working with their hands. It’s a lot, but they get it! Without this, I think our job would be very hard.”

She believes that this artistic, tactile teaching opens learning gateways, especially for those who do not learn through traditional whole classroom learning methods.

This tight-knit ELC team works together harmoniously to prepare these kids for success by the time they are ready to start kindergarten. Ms. Vanessa tests her students before they graduate, and notes that for most of her keiki, “the test is too easy!” These ELC graduates not only graduate ahead academically but socially as well.

Kindergarten teacher Mrs. Symank and Assistant Teacher Mrs. Toia-Vaas agree that there is very little transition for these tykes, so they hit the ground running, diving right into the fundamentals of education, counting, site words and basic reading skills. These kids already know how to follow direction and are diligently respectful.

Hawaiian Studies Teacher Mrs. Coon commented that, “Students that come from Ms. Vanessa are socially well-rounded. They work well in groups, good at line formation, easily follow direction and are well-mannered.”

Nicole is a softy but always consistent with daily routines – so the kids always know what to expect – and Vanessa is ready to challenge students if they are ready for more.

“They are beyond ready for kindergarten when they leave her,” said Nicole, with love and confidence of her teaching partner and friend, Ms. Vanessa.

Ke Kula Kamali’i Pu’uwai La’a, Early Learning Center will host an open house on Sunday, Sept. 16, from 10 to 11 a.m. Pastries and coffee will be provided, as well as a tour of the center and a chance to ask questions. There are still are limited spaces available, and graduates of the ELC receive priority registration into the Sacred Hearts School Kindergarten Program.

To RSVP for the open house, e-mail yrichard@shsmaui.org or call (808) 298-9679. You can also visit www.shsmaui.org to learn more about the school or call the office at (808) 661-4720 to schedule a tour on another date.