A teacher, and a valley that is eternally thankful
LAHAINA — When Mary Anna Waldrop, a gifted teacher from New Mexico and Whittier College graduate, taught sixth-graders language arts two years ago at Sacred Hearts School, she knew something about the class was special. Now, as full-time eighth grade teacher of the same students, she knows why. And so she told the inspirational tale that follows.
Mary Anna, it turns out, is a bit special herself, according to Lahaina author Bonnie Nelson, founder of a group called the Cheetah Alliance that educates children on environmental issues. With a yen to work with children, Nelson was exposed to Waldrop’s teaching skills when she asked to sit in on some of her classes.
She now calls Mary Anna “one of the best teachers on the planet. I was so impressed at how a good teacher can motivate children. I watched her pull things from these kids they did not even know they had.”
Noting that Waldrop sometimes strikes fear into her students the way she challenges them, Nelson told how one student wrote in a paper: “Mrs. Waldrop, I will blame you for my greatness.”
Getting back to the story, Waldrop pointed out in an interview that Sacred Hearts students are taught Hawaiian culture in every grade. She suggested, more than a year ago, to the seventh grade teacher that he take his students on a trip to Honokowai Valley, planning the following year to bring them back when they were in her own class as eighth-graders.
Seventeen members of this class, who already knew some Hawaiian chants, were ushered into the valley with chants by Kupuna Ed Lindsey. The former teacher led the restoration of the special valley site of an ancient village for a bunch of years.
The kids loved Ed, and the chance this inspirational leader gave them to explore on their own the still-standing walls of old taro patches where thousands of Hawaiians once lived. They enjoyed the total experience, but what they liked about Ed was his openness in being willing to take questions. And they liked the fact he let them explore the whole valley on their own. “He let us learn on our own. And he answered every question,” one student said last month.
During the first visit, no one knew that Ed had cancer. Ed breathed his last this past June. In October, as planned, the class insisted on returning — this time for a memorial service to say goodbye. Chants once again rose to the walls of the valley for permission to enter. The students stood in a circle, holding hands in the best Hawaiian tradition. And, in Mary Anna’s words, “they did their popcorn.”
Each popped up spontaneously in no particular order, stepping forward to say one or two sentences they had written and memorized for the occasion. Ed’s wife, Pua, and son, Edwin “Ekolu” Lindsey III, were moved to tears.
As Mary Anna tells it, Ekolu had an “ah-ha moment” after being at loose ends following his father’s passing. Right then and there, he knew what he had to do, according to Waldrop. He had to take over leadership of the Honokowai Valley ‘ohana.
There is more. Thirteen-year-old Alicia Huliganga was inspired after the event to write a poem — a poem called “Lingering Soul” so good, it seemed as if it had come from the pen of someone much older. (To be continued next week.)