WINONA GONSALVES / 1935-2006
Beloved teacher did ‘everything’ for school
The May Day festival at St. Patrick's School Wednesday went according to plan, but teachers, students and parents were very aware that Winona Gonsalves was missing.
A teacher for 52 years at the Kaimuki school, Gonsalves had for decades been the coordinator of the event that combines Lei Day pageantry and the Catholic tradition of honoring Mary, the Mother of Jesus, in May.
Gonsalves, 70, of Kailua died Tuesday in Castle Medical Center. "I think our Blessed Mother just took care of her," said school Principal Sister Rose Miriam Schillinger.
The principal said the May pageant was just one of many school activities that Gonsalves organized or directed, in addition to her duties as teacher of fifth- and sixth-grade mathematics and fifth-grade spelling and religion. "She just did everything" as coordinator of programs during summer school and two-week intercession breaks between semesters, director of the Junior Police Officer and Student Mediator programs, the yearbook and an annual Johns Hopkins University recognition of outstanding students.
"In a sense, she was the end of an era," said Schillinger. "You won't find a teacher who will stay that long in a job and take on the additional responsibilities.
"She was an excellent disciplinarian, kind, fair and just. If a teacher can be those things, the children will eat out of your hand. Even if she was strict, they liked her because they learned from her," Schillinger said.
"Her big thing was homework -- it was something you had to do on your own. She knew that it was our foundation to succeed in whatever we did," said Maverick Kanoa, the second of three generations of Kanoas taught by Gonsalves. His father, Manly Kanoa, and son, Bret, a St. Patrick sixth-grader, knew the teacher as "a very kindhearted person, very family-oriented," he said.
"When my son talks about how strict she is, I told him, 'She's mellow with you. She would make us stay in at recess and stay after school.' She would give us extra credit so we could make up our grades," Kanoa said.
Eleanor Gonsalves said her sister's whole life was focused on the Catholic education system where she "learned the passion for teaching and working with children from her teachers." She had been a student at St. Patrick School and started teaching there after graduating from Sacred Hearts Academy. She earned a bachelor's degree from Chaminade University while teaching.
When St. Patrick School sought accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Gonsalves took on the task of self-study coordinator, directing faculty and staff in preparation for the 1997 scrutiny which led to accreditation.
She was presented the National Catholic Education Association's Distinguished Graduate Award that year.
Gonsalves started her 53rd teaching year last fall but had been ill since cancer surgery in October. "She would never have retired," said her sister. "The thought that she would have to because of her health upset her. She had spent a lot of time serving people and serving the Lord."
Gonsalves is survived by sisters Eleanor Gonsalves and Elaine Kanoa; nephews Herbert and Richard Nakamura Jr. and Michael Kanoa; and six grandnieces and grandnephews.
Her life will be celebrated at a Mass at 10:30 a.m. Thursday at St. Patrick Church. Friends may call after 8 a.m. Burial will be in Hawaiian Memorial Park.