A Group Effort
In spring of 2010, an email was sent. That email spoke of education reform on our island of Tutuila, of a need for high quality instruction, of a family-based school. It was sent to a handful of concerned parents and signed “Karen Ho-Ching”. When that group of parents met together, creative sparks flew and each left with a vision of a school where parents and teachers work as partners to guide children through the exciting journey of discovery. From that vision Ta’iala Academy was born.
Throughout the following months, these families worked tirelessly renovating a house donated to be the school in the mountain village of Mapusagafou. They painted, laid flooring, screened windows, installed chalkboards, formed classrooms, and envisioned the lessons that would take place within those walls. Hundreds of service hours were offered by dozens of people working together for this cause. The result was a bright, functioning, inviting center of learning ready for the little ones waiting to enter.
School in Session
On August 23, 2010 Ta'iala Academy opened its doors to 34 students from grades K3 (preschool) to 7. The faculty members included: Ms. Mele Lilo (K3), Ms. Tania Ilaoa (K4-K5), Ms. Dolores Ho-Ching (1-2), Ms. Mitzi Semo (3-4), and Ms. Melinda Temple (5-7), with Mr. Norris Alaiasa as Director and Ms. Teuila Ho-Ching as the art teacher and office staff.
Everything was done out of love, passion, and commitment to establishing a school based on high moral values. During the first half of the school year, teachers were volunteers. Since then modest salaries were established, however the school's struggle for financial sustainability continues.
Throughout the first year, the school has had many successes. Because of the small class size, teachers challenged students on their individual level.
For example, a student who struggled with multiplication got the right attention and now is confident with math.
A student who claimed not to be a "reader" found books that interest her and now reads frequently for pleasure.
One parent commented, "For the first time, my son actually is excited to get up in the morning to go to school. And at the end of the school day, he doesn't want to leave school and I nearly have to bribe him to come home!"
A grandparent shared, "My hats off to the teachers and administrators at the school. They have worked wonders with my child, and proven that he CAN learn."
The school has had its bumps, as any new endeavor does, but we are confidently taking this path and will lead others along the way.