PO‘IPU — Tickets for the Willie K. Winter Wonderland Christmas Concert, Dec. 17 at the Kaua‘i Community College Performing Arts Center are going fast, said Jonathan McRoberts, a board member of Grow Kaua‘i Teachers.
George Corrigan, president of the newly-formed non-profit organization, said Willie K. is doing the concert with the Grow Kaua‘i Teachers as its beneficiary.
During the concert, CDs of Wille K’s new Christmas album will be available, said Dr. Kani Blackwell of the Grow Kaua‘i Teachers.
The group was on hand Wednesday morning at the Rotary Club of Po‘ipu when stipend checks of $4,000 were distributed to seven of the nine teachers in the cohort who will be graduating in the Spring of 2012 with their teaching certificates.
“Two of the nine teachers did not need, or request aid,” Corrigan said. “These scholarships, or stipends, can be used as the recipient sees fit, whether to pay for tuition, or to help with family expenses.”
The biggest hurdle in becoming a teacher comes in the final semester when the teacher candidate cannot have any other employment while interning in a classroom on a full time basis under a mentor teacher, states the Grow Kaua‘i Teachers website.
Blackwell said this situation places a huge burden on the teacher candidate and without the aid of the stipends, many strong candidates would lose well-qualified teachers.
Corrigan said since the program started through the efforts of Blackwell and the Rotary Club of Hanalei Bay, Grow Kaua‘i Teachers has graduated 39 teachers, 38 of whom continue to teach on Kaua‘i.
He noted that Claire Hirota, a teacher at the Koloa Elementary School, was a graduate of the program in 2009 and recently honored as a Milken Teacher of Promise, the announcement prompting the Kaua‘i County Council to commend the program through Council Vice Chair JoAnn Yukimura.
Corrigan said these teachers are not just in the public schools but also in the charter schools and private schools.
“Local teachers don’t get homesick,” he said.
McRoberts, holding a Master’s degree in education, said having local teachers is particularly important in elementary schools.
“You don’t want kids in kindergarten leaving for Winter break and returning to a new face,” he said. “You lose a whole year, that way. Consistency is important and these local teachers know how to live here. They’ll just grow.”
Candidates receiving stipends at the Rotary Club of Po‘ipu meeting included Kilauea resident Ryan McGill, Jina Thompson who teaches first grade at Kalaheo Elementary School, Emily Thomas who teaches third grade at Elsie Wilcox Elementary School, Andra Drake of Kekaha, Erika Notebo-Wakumoto who is at King Kaumuali‘i Elementary School, Megan Cram who teaches second grade at Wilcox and Jeanine Dotario who says she loves teaching first grade at Wilcox because she is taller than the students.
Other students in the cohort are Brandon Krovosa and Kina Beaudry.
Tickets for the Willie K. concert are $35 for regular seating and $45 for premium tickets and available at Scotty’s Music in Kalaheo, Lotus Gallery, Savage Pearls, Pono Market in Kapa‘a, Ship Store Galleries, The Wine Shop, Banana Patch Studio and King Auto Center.
Tickets are also available by visiting www.growkauaiteachers.org, the program’s website which also offers more information on Grow Kaua‘i Teachers.
• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@ thegardenisland.com.