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Third-grader Sophia Santiago helps second-grade teacher Heather Dachille demonstrate how to play the ‘ili’ili, or lava rocks.
Sarasota Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013 5 years ago

Teacher Spotlight: Heather Dachille


Every Wednesday afternoon, Southside Elementary second-grade teacher and Hawaii native Heather Dachille teaches students how to play Hawaiian instruments, count in Hawaiian and dance the hula.

Dachille started the class three years ago with the encouragement of Principal Steven Dragon. Dressed in a Hawaiian patterned skirt with a flower in her hair, Dachille uses traditional instruments such as drums, lava rocks and bamboo sticks to share her culture with first- through fourth-graders.

Dachille grew up in Hawaii, where the tradition of hula dancing was passed down through generations and often danced at family parties. Dachille started a hula-dancing group in high school that performed at local events.

After high school, Dachille moved to New Jersey, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in education. She met her husband and the couple moved in 2003 to Sarasota for the warm weather.

During her hula classes, Dachille makes the experience as authentic as possible for the students. She teaches them to count and use directional signals in Hawaiian so they can follow the dance instructions. Her brother even sends snacks from Hawaii for Dachille to serve during the class.

“There are so many different foods, even with snacks. They get to see what kids in other parts of the world eat,” says Dachille. “It’s important for the little ones to see what else is out there in the world.”
— Yaryna Klimchak

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