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StarBulletin.com

Driving force


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POSTED: Friday, October 16, 2009

Retired Principal Florence Teruya went from steering Waolani Judd Nazarene School to driving its activities bus in July—just to stay around her students.

“;The children are so lovable and fun to be with,”; said Teruya, who is volunteering as “;principal”; bus driver after 30 years at the helm of the Nuuanu private school. “;I really believe in the sports programs, and I want the students to participate in them.”;

Kiele Amundson, president of the school's Parent Teacher Fellowship board, said, “;As a parent, knowing that our kids are in safe hands makes us really feel at ease. It's comforting having a principal who goes out of her way to make sure the kids are safe. She has that innate compassion.”;

Teruya started as a substitute driver about 20 years ago, but when the two regular drivers left, she took over their duties by herself at no charge. She drives the students to volleyball and basketball competitions, to swimming lessons at the YMCA and on field trips.

She has no problem navigating the school's 66-passenger bus or the smaller one with 22 seats.

“;When I started driving the bus, I really got to know the students and liked cheering them on at their games,”; said Teruya, 67. “;It was really exciting. The coaches kept saying I was the No. 1 fan.

“;We have really great kids. I got to know them on a one-to-one basis instead of just as a class. It's so cute to hear them praying 'God help us to win this game,' and their cheering and singing,”; she said.

When Teruya became principal of the school, founded in 1967, it only had one kindergarten and five preschool classes. A grade was added every year. Today the coed school has 195 preschool through sixth-grade students.

Most teachers “;have been here 20 to 30 years,”; said Teruya. “;Our staff has always been great.”;

With the economy squeezing school budgets everywhere, Teruya wants to keep volunteering since she retired in July, because “;it's expensive to hire a driver.”;

While public schools face the loss of 17 instruction days, “;this school isn't going to cut any days,”; she said.

“;It's been a great 30 years; it went by so quickly. ... One of the little boys said, 'How come you're getting old?' His teacher probably told them when you get old you retire. They say all kinds of funny things. I'm single; I have no children. All these children are my children,”; she said.