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Hawaii News | Lee Cataluna

Lee Cataluna: Iroquois Point Elementary School teachers caravan to check in on students

  • Video by Craig T. Kojima / ckojima@staradvertiser.com

    Iroquois Point Elementary teachers on Friday drove through their community and called out to their students to tell them that they miss them.

  • CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                Kindergarten teachers Joyce Uyehara, Taylor Jardine, Robin Kouchi and Renee Goff prepared to decorate their vehicles before the teachers drove around Kapilina Beach homes to wave to all of their students on Friday.

    CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Kindergarten teachers Joyce Uyehara, Taylor Jardine, Robin Kouchi and Renee Goff prepared to decorate their vehicles before the teachers drove around Kapilina Beach homes to wave to all of their students on Friday.

  • CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                Teachers from Iroquois Point Elementary drove around Kapilina Beach homes on Friday to wave to their students.

    CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Teachers from Iroquois Point Elementary drove around Kapilina Beach homes on Friday to wave to their students.

  • CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                SueAnn Richards was in the caravan of Iroquois Point Elementary School teachers who drove through their community on Friday.

    CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARADVERTISER.COM

    SueAnn Richards was in the caravan of Iroquois Point Elementary School teachers who drove through their community on Friday.

  • CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                Third grade teacher Brooke Chapman rode the back of her car with stuffed animals on Friday.

    CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Third grade teacher Brooke Chapman rode the back of her car with stuffed animals on Friday.

  • CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                Makua Kalani Apana, a Hawaiian Studies teacher, blew his conch shell on Friday.

    CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Makua Kalani Apana, a Hawaiian Studies teacher, blew his conch shell on Friday.

With streamers and balloons taped to their cars, hand-painted signs and horns blasting, the teachers of Iroquois Point Elementary School drove through the streets of their community on Friday morning and called out to the students they haven’t seen since before spring break to tell them — not as a group, but individually, calling each child by name — that they miss them.

“Hey, Corbin! How you doing, buddy? You look older. Did you have a birthday?”

First grade teacher SueAnn Richards has 20 students in her class, but seemed to know every family at Kapilina Beach Homes. She waved out the car window as she drove and told everyone how happy she was to see them.

“Socialization is really an important part of school … learning to cooperate, share, work together and be in each other’s presence. They’re not getting that for two whole months,” Richards said. She sees her class online every day at 10 a.m. for about an hour. Some of the kids eat their breakfast during online class.

Some grab whatever device they’re using, whether it’s an older sibling’s laptop or a parent’s phone, and crawl back into bed with the screen pressed to their faces. Some gather up their younger siblings to join in, too. Richards is fine with whatever works. She checks in with her students, goes through the lesson she planned for the day and provides some encouragement.

Some days — too many days — there are tears.

PHOTOS: Teachers from Iroquois Point Elementary School drive to visit their students

“It’s funny. It’s like you never thought you’d hear all these kids saying they just want to be back in school,” Richards said. When the news came last month that public schools would be closed for the rest of the school year, Richards described her students’ mood as “deflated.” Then, she thought of organizing the teacher parade.

Many of the children on the parade route held hand-made signs, some bearing their teacher’s name, others with messages like, “Thank you for all you do” and “I miss you more than toilet paper.”

“We miss you, too!” the teachers called, to Hunter and Christopher, to Brielle and then a different Hunter, and to each child and every family.

Some of the children dressed up in Halloween superhero costumes. One family picked plumeria from their front yard and made fresh lei for the teachers. Parents shot cell phone video of the teachers parading by, while the teachers shot cell phone video of the families.

Residents who didn’t have kids in their households came out to wave, too.

A shirtless grandpa grinned at the procession. A woman holding a very young baby thanked the teachers on behalf of their “future student.”

The school has 680 students from kindergarten through grade 6, and most live at Kapilina Beach Homes. For the students who live outside of the community, teachers had worked out a plan to drive past their homes at a set time that day so that everyone would get to have a bit of the parade.

Kapilina Beach Homes events coordinator Alana Batschelet helped the school plan a route through the 400 acres and 1,500 homes that was “as long as possible” so that the teachers and students had a lot of time to wave to one another.

Principal Ofelia Reed marveled at the line of cars that made up the parade.

“Our school has a staff of 65, and there are more than 65 people here,” she said. Many of the teachers brought their families to enjoy the safe-distance fun.

“Riding through the homes and seeing everyone really showed how impactful we are as educators,” Reed said. “I got chickenskin. The students and their families can see how much we love them.”

When the parade was over, the teachers went back to the school to take a group photo of the event. They decided the way to take a group photo in a time of social distancing was to do a panoramic shot, so they all stood next to their cars while the photographer slowly panned.

When the picture-taking was finished and the event organizers had thanked everyone for coming, it took a long time for the teachers to leave to go back home. They kept standing by their cars, holding socially distanced conversations, lingering in the moment of having the school together again.

Correction: SueAnn Richards was misidentified in a photo of the caravan of Iroquois Point Elementary School teachers who drove through their community on Friday.

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