Hawaii’s Top Teachers

Saturday, January 25, 1997

Name: Ruth Komatsu
Age: 37
Position: Kindergarten teacher
Education: University of Hawaii-Manoa
Pastimes: Performing with sister Joanie Komatsu, a singer

No age limit on learning

Giving instruction in agriculture, marketing and profit analysis is not an unusual task for a teacher - unless the students are kindergartners.

Ruth Komatsu teaches at Pearl Harbor Elementary School where the vegetable garden, dug and tended by her kindergartners, plays an important role in everyday learning.

"One year the harvest was so good we set up a stand and sold to teachers and other classes walking by," Komatsu said. Afterward, the class made charts and graphs of their success.

Zelda, a black-and-white Dutch rabbit, has free range in the classroom and is also a learning tool for the students. "Zelda inspires us to pursue topics and then write about them," said Komatsu.

"One morning she dug in the garden, so we pretended she dug her way to other countries. I assigned each student a country to study."

Anna Claire Forster, the school's recently retired principal, said Komatsu is intuitive and talented.

"In the classroom environment that (Komatsu) creates, learning about spoken and written language, number concepts and relationships is natural and meaningful," she said.

Komatsu helps lead the school ukulele group, assists with computers and e-mail and helps coach the athletic team for the annual district meet.

She said she learns from her students: "When you watch kids, you learn how kids learn. It's amazing. Sometimes I don't feel like the leader of the class."

Mary Sano, Special to the Star-Bulletin

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