When was the last time you got hugged more than 54 times in a day? I’m a hugger and was completely in my element when we recently visited a local school in Kauai. Let me start at the beginning.


Kids are amazing! Whether they’re pre-schoolers, wiggly giggly elementary age, highly energetic middle school, or inquisitive almost adult high school students, they capture my attention and heart.

Even though I officially retired from teaching twenty years ago, if I have a choice to spend time with, entertain, or be entertained by kids, I’m there. So it was a no-brainer when my friend Glenn mentioned his nephew and wife ran a charter school in Kauai, I immediately started figuring a way we could visit.

First of all, the Kula Aupuni Niihau A Kahelelani Aloha (KANAKASchool is organized, busy, and welcoming. The school embraces an educational curriculum with respect for culture and people. The vision statement impressed me and impressed me even more during our visit.


The vision of KANAKA includes: the preservation and promulgation of the Niihau dialect of Hawaiian, and Hawaiian culture and ideologies; for our students to live functional lives in a western dominated society with their culture and language as the foundation for learning; to provide authentic life lessons, and meaningful learning experiences.



More impressive was our welcome. Hedy and Steve Sullivan, the director and her husband, greeted us and guided us outside for our introduction to the students. Students and staff led us through an official ceremony with Hawaiian chants to ask permission to visit and chants of acceptance. Three of the younger students made what was probably a long walk for them across the yard to present each of us with a lei and hug. This was followed by the entire school population, students and staff greeting us with “Aloha” and a hug. The feeling? Acceptance, affection, and wondering how I can get a grant to teach there.


With a small population, the classes are shared levels so my husband, friend, and I visited the mixed high school class during science and another class during Hawaiian instruction. We were enveloped with laughter and smiles from middle school age kids vying for camera shots, and then totally enchanted with sixteen K-2 students. Their teacher, Heather Neumen, graciously allowed me to do one of my favorite things–sing and do some interactive reciting with the kids. Like most little kids, it was a mix of outgoing, curious, loners and shy ones. And like most kids they were quick to laugh, sing, and hug. What a treat!

Most impressive, being around beautiful kids who were open and curious reminded me how precious all children are. I think it was Herbert Hoover who said, “Children are our greatest natural resource.”

And Mary Jean LeTendre who said, “America’s future walks through the doors of our schools each day.” The future sure is getting ready at that small charter school in Kekaha Kauai.

Mahalo for including us in your day.

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships.