Kupuna Life: A teacher who cares

Kupuna Life

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Lourdes Ricardez moved to Hawaii seven years ago and knew very little English.

So she took a class, taught by Judy Guffey, at the Waipahu Community School for Adults.

“She teach really interesting things in the class,” Ricardez said. “She make really fun class and she be part of our life.”

Ricardez learned about the language and the local culture.

“She really helped me,” Ricardez said. “But you really need to take time to practice. Take time to study.”

Her teacher does not have lesson plans or tests. Guffey said she teaches by the seat of her pants. This method, as well as her passion and heart, earned her Outstanding Teacher of the Year honors.

“I just teach and it depends on what I see from the different students because they come from so many different nations, from different backgrounds, that one size does not fit all.”

Judy Guffey, Waipahu Community School for Adults teacher

The 85-year-old has been teaching part-time at the school for 17 years.

“I really like the ‘aha’ moment when you see in someone’s eyes that whatever it is that we’ve been talking about, they’ve got,” Guffey said. She also taught for years at the University of Hawaii before retiring and joining the community school.

So why does she keep going?

“For one thing, it keeps my brain stimulated. I retired once and got really bored and so I do it now, it gets me out of the house and it’s fun,” Guffey said.

Some of the relationships that formed extend beyond the classroom. Guffey helped Ricardez open her own business — a small Mexican restaurant at Aloha Tower Marketplace — four years ago. Guffey also helped her former student find a new house in the same cul-de-sac where she lives.

“She’s a really important part of my ohana. I love her,” Ricardez said. “I really appreciate how she’s made me feel with many troubles, difficulties in my life.”

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Guffey has no plans to slow down. She enjoys volunteer work and hobbies like photography, along with helping people and changing lives.

“I’ve always said ‘I will teach until it stops being fun,’ and so far, it’s still fun,” Guffey said.

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