Laie ladies named top teachers at Kahuku

[Originally published in KALEO on October 3, 1996]Elizabeth Kammerer 1996

Sunday Mariteragi 1996Students, staff and faculty at Kahuku High and Intermediate School recently elected two Laie women as top teachers at the North Shore school: Sunday Mariteragi (left) and Elizabeth Kammerer (right).

In addition to tying for the teacher of the year award and winning $100 each, Mariteragi received the Oceanic Cablevision/Finance Factors Outstanding Educator Award for Kahuku High School; and Kammerer went on to be named Windward District Teacher of the Year, including a $500 monetary award from the Polynesian Cultural Center, and State Teacher of the Year, earning another $1,000 cash prize from the PCC.

Students and other teachers at Kahuku High School, where Mariteragi has taught for more than 20 years, voted for the popular P.E. teacher which, she said, “is a little unusual, because they usually pick someone who teaches classes throughout the day. And what happened was because I only teach a leadership class, and the rest of the day I’m more of an administrator [student activity coordinator]. I don’t teach six classes a day, but they went ahead and elected both of us.”

Mariteragi says her philosophy of education has grown over the years with the school. “Definitely everyone can learn. The students are so talented. The outlying community and families support them. The students are intelligent, very akamai. We have a good teaching staff and, as of recent, I’m learning that diversity really is the key — whether it’s cultural diversity, differences of opinion, or different styles of teaching. That’s the only way people can grow,” she said.
Mariteragi, who graduated from Church College of Hawaii, has lived in Laie since 1974. She and her husband, Raymond, who is Tahitian village chief at PCC, have three sons who all graduated from Kahuku. She is also a widely respected kumu hula.

To be considered for the District and State teaching award, Kammerer had to fill out a 12-page essay questionnaire which, among other things, asked for her philosophy of education: “Every student is capable of learning.?Everyone is capable of improving their skills and becoming a more whole person,”she believes. “In my field in particular, the reason I went into music is because as a teenager you have so many thoughts and feelings that are difficult to express, and music is a universal language that people can use to express those feelings.”

“Sometimes, there are students who maybe can’t write a poem or an essay, or have difficulty getting out on the football field to show off what they can do; and yet they can come into my class and have that release. It’s an emotional release, a spiritual release; and I can provide that for special ed students, or GT students, or kids who are in the average grade level. To me, I’m providing a service to the students.”

Before Kammerer and her family moved to Hawaii, she was a fulltime homemaker in Allentown, Pennsylvania, with five children—two at BYU-Hawaii, two at Kahuku and the youngest at Kahuku Elementary. Her husband, David, is a music professor at BYU-Hawaii. She attended Susquehanna University, a small liberal arts school in Pennsylvania from where, of course, she graduated in music.

Even while she was a fulltime homemaker, she kept her hand in music by teaching piano at home and directing an after-school show choir similar to her popular Vocal Motion group at Kahuku. “I love teaching at Kahuku,”Kammerer said. “We love being in Hawaii and living in Laie. I waited a long time to teach. It was important for us to have me be home with the children, but I still felt that pull. And so, when I finally got that fulltime teaching job, it was a real special experience for me.”

In addition to Vocal Motion, Kammerer teaches boys and girls glee for seventh and eighth graders and two sections of high school choirs in the unusual white “bubble” classroom behind the cafeteria which comfortably holds 60 students. She also teaches a theory and composition class which combines computers and keyboard teaching tools.

Kammerer, who has always been interested in music, didn’t plan on becoming a music teacher but in high school realized that it was something she could do all day long, and the next day, and the next, and not be tired of it. Good thing, because in addition to teaching she has held many music positions at church. She is also certified to teach instrumental music, but she doesn’t. “I’m a pianist. But over at Kahuku we have some super instrumental music teachers, and they don’t need my help at all.”

Congratulations, Sunday Mariteragi and Elizabeth Kammerer.

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