Little Monk Seal Montessori to Open in Kīhei in January
A much-needed new preschool and kindergarten will open in North Kīhei in January 2016.
Little Monk Seal Montessori will serve children ages 3 to 6 years old, offering an authentic, primary Montessori school curriculum.
“This is great news for families who have been waitlisted for preschool due to the critical islandwide shortage, but especially for keiki in Kīhei, where there are fewer schools and longer waiting lists,” said Katie Farley, one of the school’s creators.
Founders Farley and Michelle Lazuka said they could not resist “diving into” the project.
They met each other, quite appropriately, in a Montessori classroom.
Farley became a Montessori enthusiast as soon as she set foot in a Montessori classroom. It was the search for a perfect preschool for her own child that led her directly to Montessori. After graduating from the University of Colorado with a communications degree, she attended the Montessori Education Center of the Rockies and become a certified primary teacher.
In 2012, she moved to Maui and began teaching. She has already run a successful private tutoring business on the island, teaching children ages 5 to15 and ability levels ranging from general education students to those with severe learning disabilities. She also worked within the Hawai‘i public school system, providing one-on-one support to disabled students.
Lazuka has a master’s degree in education from Chaminade University of Honolulu and holds a Montessori teaching credential. She has a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education and is a certified yoga instructor, specializing in children’s yoga. She developed a successful children’s yoga program at Providence United Methodist in North Carolina.
Lazuka’s work with children is extensive and diverse. She interned in pediatrics at Northeast Medical Hospital in Concord, North Carolina, as a child life specialist. She has also worked as a lead preschool teacher, Montessori preschool and kindergarten teacher, and as a wish granter for Make-A-Wish Foundation.
As Farley and Lazuka’s friendship grew, they discovered that they had both moved to Maui at the same time to pursue their “ultimate calling.”
After hearing repeatedly that Maui needed more quality preschools, the two friends decided they would take on the task of developing a Montessori school.
“The environment must be rich in motives which lend interest to activity and invite the child to conduct his own experiences,” reads a quote from Dr. Maria Montessori, founder of the famous teaching method.
Like Montessori, Farley and Lazuka believe in teaching children through what interests them, using their passion for the monk seals to teach children in all areas, including practical life, sensorial, language arts, mathematics and geography.
Little Monk Seal Montessori is different than other preschools due to its connection to the environment and its conservation efforts for the Hawaiian monk seal. Lazuka is an active first responder on the Monk Seal Response Team.
“It’s a wonderful pairing of education and stewardship,” said Farley.
The Hawaiian monk seal, Hawai‘i’s State Marine Mammal, is critically endangered, with only 1,100 remaining, the teachers said. They are endemic to the Hawaiian Islands and Johnston Atoll and found nowhere else on Earth. Isolated from their closest relative 15 million years ago, Hawaiian monk seals are considered a “living fossil” because of their distinct evolutionary lineage, they added.
The seals serve an important role in the marine ecosystem.
“Monk seals are one of the most primitive mammals in the sea,” said Lazuka. “They are apex predators and serve to control levels of numerous prey populations to maintain a healthy, functioning ecosystem.”
“Learning about the monk seals’ importance in the ecosystem of the Hawaiian Islands offers the opportunity to educate generations on issues such as sustainability, climate change and the environment,” said Farley. “By incorporating lessons about the monk seal into our curriculum and better understanding these precious mammals, we are teaching the children the values of their home. We teach the children to respect the land, life and ocean that we are so fortunate to have.”
“Children have a natural passion to take care of things,” said Lazuka. “By getting the children interested in saving the Hawaiian monk seal—a mammal that only exists where they live—they will learn that they are part of something important and that they are capable of making a positive impact on the planet.”
Little Monk Seal Montessori will provide lessons that integrate science experiments, special naturalist visitors and more “place-based” activities to allow the children to truly connect with their home and environment.
Satisfying a community need for schools, helping an endangered species and teaching Montessori in paradise is the ultimate dream come true for Farley and Lazuka.
“Our vision is to inspire our keiki to grow into peaceful, loving and happy members of the global community by providing a Montessori environment that allows each child to reach his or her full potential,” their missions statement reads. “We envision a world where people love learning, trust and help each other and live happy, productive lives. We know that we must nurture the children as a community and give them our best love and care to realize this dream. Our promise is to be lifelong teachers to our students and to protect and cherish the keiki of Hawai‘i.”
The school is located at 300 Ohukai Road, #206. Classes begin on Jan. 6. Space is limited.