Mary Tenney Castle, founder of the Samuel N. & Mary Castle Foundation, recognized the importance of Hawaii’s most valuable resource, its keiki, and pioneered the kindergarten movement in our State. Her commitment to early education was designed to improve the lives of Hawaii’s children by expanding access and improving the quality of early learning. The trustees of the Foundation remain committed to these principles by supporting efforts which have the potential to lead to a more equitable Hawaii where children, state-wide, become life-long learners who are active and effective participants in our democracy and their cultures.
This past year, the Foundation distributed over $2.5 million. Grants provided tuition assistance for families attending private pre-schools, support for meeting accreditation requirements to increase quality and professional development opportunities to build capacity among early childhood educators, teachers and administrators. The last continues to be a primary area of investment by the Foundation as it recognizes what research indicates: it is the adult/child relationship – whether parent or teacher – that makes the most difference for children’s learning.
Our partnership with the Erikson Institute continues to be an extremely effective program for such professional development. The third cohort of private and public teachers is about to be launched and the size of its applicant pool indicates the “thirst” for learning among early educators about how to better provide developmentally appropriate math experiences for children. End-of-workshop sharing sessions reflect the transformation that has occurred in teachers’ thinking about how children learn. A new venture to be launched this spring is a literacy workshop, also to be offered by Erikson. The interest is so strong and the program outlined so appropriate for Hawaii that we anticipate similar transformative thinking among our early childhood participants.
One of our more popular and respected programs, Castle Colleagues, was suspended for the 2016 – 17 year because of the unexpected death of its director. Holly Henderson, a respected program manager in Hawaii for over 35 years, served as program director of the Castle Colleagues Program for 25 years. During that time over 300 preschool directors at private preschools across the state benefited from the intensive residential program which was hosted by our partner Chaminade University. The program received national recognition for helping to establish important standards of excellence for managing preschool sites. The program has had a major impact in raising professional standards and improving quality instruction for thousands of children since the program’s inception 25 years ago because of Holly’s leadership. While it will be impossible to replace Holly, we are investigating a replacement program that will continue to serve the needs of directors facing changing DHS requirements and professional expectations in the future. We hope to have a program up and running in 2018.
Our newest pilot program to support existing programs offered by general family support organizations will be in its second year in 2017. It recognizes the complexity of factors, ranging from health to income to service access, that affect the development and learning of young children, ages 0–5. Also continuing is our partnership with the Executive Office on Early Learning as it defines a state-wide strategic plan and seeks to enhance the teaching capacity of public school early educators.
Our Executive Director represents Hawaii on the national scene and brings his understanding of the value of multi-generational approaches within a multicultural community to the national conversation while always seeking opportunities to increase learning opportunities for our Island children.. On behalf of the Foundation, I thank the many volunteers who work state-wide on behalf of early learning, our partners who share in our commitment to quality early childhood education and the many who directly deliver the services that create the foundation for successful learning for our children and their families.
With warm aloha,
Robert G. Peters