LAHAINA - Retired teacher Richard Endsley, taking tickets with his wife, Pat, as a volunteer at a charity event a few years back remarked, "We thought we came here for the beauty. It turned out we came for the beautiful people."
The memorable quote perfectly summed up what makes Lahaina so special. Native-born and newcomers not only live aloha, they cherish the community and often give back. Few in recent years have given back as much as the Endsleys.
The Lahaina School Complex Tutoring Program they launched in 2002 has brought academic improvement to what must now be well over 1,000 elementary and high school students who have committed to higher achievement. Some 290 students this year alone are tutored by a squad of 50 tutors recruited and trained by the Endsleys.
Pat Endsley, seen here dancing with her seniors’ group at Celebration of the Arts a few years back, this year spent nine months revising tutoring guides. PHOTO BY NORM BEZANE.
Pat knew by fifth grade she wanted to be a teacher. She said she acquired a strong work ethic hoeing weeds in her father's sugar cane fields near Hilo on Hawaii Island.
"I had to get every last weed out of the field," she said.
After securing two college degrees in California, she joined the Berkeley Unified School District, where she spent her entire career, teaching the first three years and serving many more as a curriculum administrator.
Richard after college delayed his planned entry into teaching with a six-year detour with the U.S Navy, joining the officer candidates program during the Korean War and serving on destroyers based at Pearl Harbor and later, Italy. Then it was on to what he really wanted to do: teach.
Building a reputation as a master trainer of teachers, Pat, while still at Berkeley, began flying back and forth to Hawaii to advise the state system, eventually advising virtually every public school on Oahu. She and Richard even helped educators in far away Iceland of all places, flying there twice to lend their expertise. (Pat had been recommended by a fellow educator.)
Once the Lahaina tutoring began after retirement, schools couldn't get enough of the Endsleys. After Lahaina Intermediate, King Kamehameha III and Princess Nahi'ena'ena both wanted in, Lahainaluna High school joined later
One of the ironies of education here is that once Hawaii as a territory led every state in literacy.
Now students are close to the bottom nationally. Possible reasons: massiveness of the state Department of Education and its bureaucracy, high teacher turnover, an abundance of students for whom English is a second language and the legacy of a two-tier education system.
It used to be that schools offered the best class "A" students a great education but paid little attention to so-called "B" students, Pat noted. Some of today's parents have no strong educational aspirations for their kids for this reason.
In some ethnic households, a few children are so ill-prepared that they do not even know they live on an island, Pat maintains.
The Endsleys last year launched a special program for 19 English-as-a-second-language students and will soon double that number.
Endsley tutoring programs do more than teach skills. The vast majority of students improved academically, but as a bonus, they gain self-esteem. "Many go on to college. The tutors are well-educated and compassionate, and they care about children," Pat emphasized.
The U.S. has a new core curriculum adapted by Hawaii. This has meant that Pat had to do an entire revamp of what tutors teach... then she has had to retrain them.
Working nine months - sometimes to the point of exhaustion - Pat wrote curriculum guides for nine grades.
"I returned to my old habit of starting to write at 9 p.m. and finishing at (2 a.m.) - times when I work best," she explained.
Aside from writing the guides, Pat and Richard have been fairly equal partners in attending to a myriad of details: finding class coordinators, even troubleshooting when a bus does not arrive.
The enthusiastic Endsleys apparently have no regrets, sacrificing days at the beach, but they are in the process of turning the project over to six people needed to replace them.
Pat has learned to dance hula and performs with senior citizens on boat days, but she has little time to pursue learning ukulele. Richard is on the board of the Lahaina Restoration Foundation.
"We cannot change the world," Richard summed up, "but we do the best we can. We have made a difference in children's lives every year for 12 years. Look how many families we are affecting. It is gratifying."
(For ideas or comments, e-mail norm @mauicommunicators.com.)