Meet Our Specialty Teachers
Dr. Irina Savery
Tutor/Specialty Teacher, Math
Irina has been a classroom math teacher for over a decade, teaching a range of math levels, from Elementary to College at public, charter, and private schools here on the Big Island of Hawaii.
On her journey to becoming a teacher, Irina lived in different countries on different continents, wore many hats, and explored many careers. Irina has a Bachelor's degree in Education and Mathematics/Statistics from the Ben-Gurion University in Israel and holds a B.Sc. and a Ph.D in Computer Science from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. She worked as a financial consultant at a bank, did research as part of the Ph.D program at AT&T Research in NJ, worked as a software engineer at Google, lectured Math and Computer Science courses at the Hawaii Community College, and taught math at a number of island schools, including St. Joseph High School.
In Dr. Savery’s own words: “Fluency in math is a great contribution to one's quality of life. My students often ask me why math is important; I tell them that practicing math develops brain muscles, which in turn increase one's general intelligence. Math opens doors and creates opportunities, regardless of what professional path one chooses to pursue.”
Specialty Teacher, Music
With twenty-five years of teaching experience, Melissa fosters student growth and joy through music-making, personal connection, and insightful support. Melissa is a creative and engaging music educator with experience in diverse music education settings.
Melissa moved to Hawai’i Island for the opportunity to teach outdoors year-round. Melissa is thrilled to be the music teacher at Malamalama Waldorf School, where students show tremendous talent and enthusiasm for singing, playing instruments, movement, and creative expression.
Melissa holds a master’s degree in music education from Michigan State University and certifications in Music Learning Theory, specializing in early childhood music education. She has served as a music teacher in Michigan’s public schools for sixteen years. Information about Melissa’s private lesson studio and online music tutorials can be found at www.sigh.studio.
Debra McGee, Movement
Debra moved to Hawai’i island in 2011 after performing, teaching, and choreographing in NY and MN Twin Cities for over two decades. Since then she has dedicated her career to teaching dance and movement around the Island of Hawai’i. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance from Marymount Manhattan College in N.Y.C. Debra is a former member of Garth Fagan Dance and performed his works nationally and internationally.
Thereafter, she began teaching and choreographing again while training vocally at the Eastman School of Music in NY. She returned to MN where she worked with former Alvin Ailey principal’s company called TU Dance, performed in numerous musicals and worked as a teaching artist. She has taught and created works at the University of Minnesota, Gustavus Adolphus College, The Cowles Center, Penumbra Theater and St. Paul Conservatory. On island, she works with Lava Roots Performing Arts and the Prince Dance Company performing, choreographing collaboratively, and teaching.
She has taught at Kona Dance and Performing Arts the last 7 years, is the director of Danse Space in Hawi, Donkey Mill’s Summer Programs, and Hawai’i Performing Arts Festival where she was awarded best regional choreographer for her work with Hair. She is a teaching artist with Hawai’i State Foundation on Culture and Arts through which she does dance residencies in the Hawai’i Public School.
Debra is a passionate teaching artist, choreographer and performer who shares the power of communication through movement.
Title 1 Reading/Writing Instructor
Information will follow!
Specialty Sensei, Japanese Studies
Aloha, nice to meet you! I am Yukiko from Japan. I was born in Tokyo and raised in the suburbs of Chiba. My family moved to Hawaii five years ago, and It is a great pleasure for me to have an opportunity to teach Japanese at this school on Hawaii island.
Prior to moving to Hawaii, I was working at the international preschool in Japan and as a private tutor to prepare for the entrance exam for students ages 7-15.
In my childhood, I loved reading books and spending time with nature. I also loved listening to music and dancing. When I was 13, I gained unforgettable opportunities to join the parades to celebrate the founding of the United States as a baton twirler. Our team participated in ceremonies at several places in the US, but joining Parades at the Kalakaua streets in Oahu and Disneyland in California was the most memorable for me. In that same year, I read my first book about Waldorf education on my parents' bookshelf. It was very impressive.
In my Japanese class here, in addition to learning to speak and write Japanese, students learn traditional Japanese songs and learn to make Japanese papercrafts with “Origami” as part of their lessons. They love to make it. I would like to introduce more Japanese culture and customs such as calligraphy and Japanese simple cooking. Through learning foreign languages, I hope that students will have a respectful mind in this wonderful natural environment at Mālamalama Waldorf School.
Kumu Malia, Hawaiian Studies
We are updating information
LaRae Soleimente, Handwork Teacher
LaRae Soleimente or Auntie L, is our handwork teacher. She brings 25 years of experience working in classes of children with special needs and general education. She went to Seattle Pacific University for her degree in Special Education. She moved to Hawaii in 2018.
Her second love is handwork art, creating everything from the finished wood slab in her kitchen to crocheting baby blankets. She states, “This job is my two passions coming together into one. I am so very grateful and excited to be a part of the Malamalama Waldorf team and share my passion and experience with the children.”