Hawaii's Top Teachers
Saturday, October 19, 1996

Name: Shirley Chang Rivera
Age: 45
Position: Epiphany School teacher
Education: University of Hawaii-Manoa
Pastimes: Traveling, playing the piano, reading

Making dreams come true

Shirley Chang Rivera never thought meeting her heros would be next to impossible.

Even though her heros are leaders from around the world. Like Mother Teresa.

"She was a quiet lady. But she radiated so much respect," said Rivera, who interviewed and worked in an orphanage with the Nobel Peace laureate in 1992. "I was actually very speechless when she talked. I just stood there and cried."

The year before, Rivera met Corazon Aquino, former president of the Philippines, during a visit to the country. Rivera met Aquino after she wrote a letter to the former president.

Rivera cites her persistence and experiences as examples of what can happen if students are determined to succeed.

"If they only try, anything can happen," she said. "The message I want them to get is to treat each other with dignity and respect - that they can dream and fulfill that dream. They have a choice in their life to create win-win situations."

Rivera teaches Christian education, character building and leads a mediation program.

"Shirley would never raise her voice. She would never scold the students," said Kathleen Steffen, head of Epiphany School. "It was always in a calm manner she would ask the kids to participate in something.

"There is so much respect and genuine love for her."

Debbie Sokei, Special to the Star-Bulletin

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