Staff Biographies

Leilani Au
Center Director

Lani Au has been the Center Director since 2015. Prior to being UHMCC's Center Director, she was our Educational Coordinator for ten years. Previously, she was a preschool teacher for twenty years, most recently as the lead teacher in the infant room at Honolulu Community College. Lani continues to work with HCC as a lecturer for their Early Childhood Education department. She has a Master’s degree in Education from University of Hawaiʻi, Mānoa. Lani is happily married to her high school sweetheart, is the mother of two growing boys, and enjoys photography, reading, gardening, taking care of her chickens, and baking – but she still has enough energy for getting to know all the children and families at the Children’s Center.
Jeff Bock, MEd, Educational Coordinator

Jeff is a fan of large projects that the students can immerse themselves in. He joined the Center family in 2007, but has also taught early elementary classes at a Montessori school, as well as at the high school level with the Hawai'i Department of Education. Jeff has worked with the State on Early Childhood Education issues.
Wendi Uyemura
Administrative Assistant

Wendi has a BS in Family Resources and a Masters in Early Childhood Education from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa. She was a lead classroom teacher at St. Timothy's Children's Center for 7 years working with two and three-year olds before joining UHMCC as a toddler teacher. In 2009, Wendi transitioned into her current position as administrative assistant.

Andrea Hill
Poni Class Teacher, 2′s

Andrea has called O‘ahu her home for all her life, and if asked for directions is known to say, “I know landmarks, not street names. But you can’t get lost on an island — just take the scenic route!” Andrea is passionate about her friends, family, and extended family at the Children’s Center, where she has worked since 1998. If asked what age group she would like to work with on any given year she would definitely say, "The two year old group!":) Andrea and her other family — her husband, James, and daughter Ashley — love spending time on their boat in Kaneohe Bay with their two puppies, Elsa and Anna. Andrea earned a BA in Sociology from University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa while also doing coursework in Early Childhood Education.
Mollie Taylor
Poni Class Teacher, 2s

Mollie is excited to join the UHMCC team as this has been one of her dreams after stepping foot on the Big House campus 3 years ago. She started as an intern in the 4/5s, then became a student assistant, then interned again in the 2s, before finally graduating with a B.Ed in Early Childhood and Elementary Education! She now plans to pursue a Master’s degree at UH Mānoa. She can’t wait to grow and learn with the keiki everyday! Mollie was born and raised in Hawai‘i and loves to dive for shells, make jewelry, take photos, and spends any free time in the ocean! She’s also a spicy ahi and curry udon lover. She can’t wait to spend her days with the wonderful 2 year old children in Poni class!

Valley Varma
‘Ōma‘oma‘o Class Teacher, 2's

Valley joined the UHMCC ‘ohana as a Hokū teacher in 2011 after she fell in love at first sight with the environment and the school’s philosophy the first time she saw it! Although Valley is an island girl she didn’t begin her journey in the field of Early Children Education until she left Kauai for college in California with plans to pursue a career in live theatre. After volunteering as a camp counselor for third graders along the coast of Northern California during spring break, Valley knew she would never be the same again. While she entered the field as a surprise to herself she has been teaching since 1997 and is passionate about her work. Valley hopes to instill a life long love for learning in the hearts and minds of the children she has the pleasure to know and believes that this is done best by creating a balance between child directed emergent learning experiences and intentional pre-planned inquires that evolve from children’s interests. Valley was a student at Pacific Oaks College in Pasadena CA before she moved home to the islands and is currently pursuing her Masters degree in Curriculum studies at UH Mānoa. She lives in Kaneohe with her husband, son, and the family cat Alice.

Jenalyn Ng
‘Ōma‘oma‘o Class Teacher, 2's

Jenalyn was born and raised on the East side of Oahu where she still resides with her parents, older brother (Jarrod), and numerous pets. Jen’s teaching experience started as a ballet teacher when she was 15 years old. She enjoyed teaching the young children so much that she decided to explore her passion further during her senior year in high school by volunteering in a special education elementary school classroom. She went on to graduate from Kaiser High School in 2013 and pursue her Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education and Elementary Education. While working on her B.Ed, Jen worked as a student assistant here at UHMCC for those 4 years. After graduating, she spent a year in the DOE as a kindergarten teacher before returning to the Children’s Center.
Jen is very passionate about working with young children and hopes to help them develop positive perspectives on schooling through fun and engaging learning experiences, loving relationships, and a positive learning environment that nurtures and encourages a child’s natural curiosity. When Jen is not working, she can often be found spending time with friends and family, caring for animals, or at a Zumba class.
Alyson Navarro
Hōkū Class Teacher, 3's

Alyson finds teaching rewarding because it gives her the opportunity to observe the student's investigation, curiosity and discoveries into an about the world around them. Alyson earned a BA in Speech from the University of Hawai'i, Mānoa, while also taking classes in Family Resources and Early Childhood Education.
Kristi Kawahara-Xu
Hōkū Class Teacher, 3's

Kristi has worked with the Children’s Center as a student assistant while earning a BS in Family Resources from University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, afterwards working for three years as a program coordinator for elementary-aged children. Kristi began taking classes in Early Childhood Education after finding she missed working with preschoolers, and she joined the Children’s Center in 2004. Kristi has a passion for traveling and loves to explore the world with her family.

Heather Tabios
Ānuenue Class Teacher, 4's & 5's

“I enjoy working with the children because every day is a new adventure!" Heather has been working as an assistant at the Children's Center since 2005 and has been a classroom teacher since 2008. Heather loves drag racing cars and is a Black Belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. She was born and raised in Hawai'i and earned a Bachelors of Science in Family Resources from the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa. She currently returned to school working on her Master's Degree in Educational Foundations. Her son, Braxton has also joined the UHMCC 'Ohana!

Shannon Adachi
Ānuenue Class Teacher, 4's & 5's

Shannon started her journey with UHMCC as an intern. She graduated thereafter with a B.S. in Human Development and Family Studies from the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa, and joined the UHMCC family almost immediately. “I want to provide children the space, materials, and resources needed to express themselves freely.” She’s excited to be working alongside of those with similar goals and passions. As the learning never stops, she plans on continuing her education in early childhood education or some area of child development. In her free time she enjoys DIY projects, hiking, and finding the best Mexican food Hawai‘i has to offer.
Lyndsee Sugano
Tuahine Class Teacher, 4's & 5's

Lyndsee was born and raised in Honolulu, where she graduated from Kalani in ’07. She attended Eastern Washington University where she received her bachelors in Early Childhood Education. When she returned from college she began working as a swim instructor for Diamond Head Aquatics for 2 years and as a Head Start Assistant Teacher for 2 ½ years. Lyndsee then became the Head Start Teacher for 3½ years before joining the UHMCC family. She looks forward to learning, growing, and collaborating with teachers who are enthusiastic about early childhood.
Ai Tanaka
Tuahine Class Teacher, 4's & 5's

Ai grew up in Seattle and graduate from University of Washington with an Interdisciplinary Visual Arts Degree. She has been teaching Early Education for seven years, and is currently working on her masters in education at UH. "I love being outdoors and teaching with nature. I love coming to work to help children get excited about going to school to find their passion and interests." Outside of school, she enjoys surfing, wrenching, or cooking for friends and family.
Shanda Freitas
UHMCC @ Kūhiō site, multi-age

Shanda graduated from UH Mānoa with a Masters in the Educational Foundations Program. She also currently teaches online ECE classes for West Oahu. She says, "I have been working with young children for years and still love it! My mission is to instill a love of learning by creating hands-on, meaningful learning experiences."

France Feig
UHMCC @ Kūhiō site, multi-age

France was raised on the island of Moloka’i and moved to Oahu to pursue her college education. She was a student intern and assistant at UHMCC while earning her BA degree in Early Childhood and Early Elementary Education. She recently graduated and is extremely excited to grow, collaborate and be a part of the community here at UHMCC. She believes that it is of much importance to nurture children’s creativity and to recognize that their curiosity is a map to exciting adventures.

Ena Reelitz
UHMCC @ Kūhiō site, multi-age

Ena was born, raised, and is still living in Kaneohe with his family. He graduated from Kamehameha in 1999 and has worked with children since. He has worked at the Alani Children's Center on the Kapiolani Community College campus for the past 15 years. As a student aide and then a teachers assistant at Alani, he achieved a Bachelors in Sociology from UH Manoa with additional credits in Early Childhood education from Honolulu Community College. He has been the lead teacher in the lab preschool classroom at Alani for the past 5 years. He joins UHMCC looking to grow as a teacher and to be a part of a larger family of enthusiastic educators.

Avis Seki
UHMCC @ Noelani site, multi-age

Avis enjoys working with young children "because they remind us to live life to its fullest, to love unconditionally, and to laugh each and every day." Outside of the classroom, Avis likes to craft, shop, and go to movies. Avis earned a BEd in Elementary Education from University of Hawai'i.

Shelley Yorita
UHMCC @ Noelani site, multi-age

"When working with children, I strive to keep everything simple, meaningful, intentional and fun!" Shelley loves Indian food, bean burritos, growing food to eat and watching the clouds roll by. Shelley earned a Masters in Education from University of Hawai'i, Mānoa.

Meg Crisostomo
Mahina Class Teacher, 3's

A Hawaii transplant, Meg was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. She graduated from Point Loma Nazarene University with her B.A. in Child and Adolescent Development and is recently completed an M.A. in Youth, Children, and Family Ministry. She enjoys learning about human development and the components that go into healthy and happy growth. She feels very lucky to be part of the UHMCC community where she is able to watch children play, explore the world around them, and cultivate new experiences. In her free time you can find her at the beach reading a good book or driving around exploring the island.

Royce Bowman
Mahina Class Teacher, 3's

Many people have asked me about how I, as a man, decided to pursue a career in early education. In short, my parents are both teachers, along with much of my family, and they have imparted upon me a passion for education and a clear picture of why it is important. I was born and raised in Hawai‘i graduating from Punahou high school and the University of Hawai‘i with a degree in Art Photography, throughout which, I have continually worked in the field of education and taken early education classes. I worked at Punahou’s after school program for four years, taught at the UH summer science program, and worked as an assistant teacher for three years at a small private preschool in Kaimuki. My focus with children tends to favor the cultivation of creativity in all areas their lives, from drawing and painting, to conversation and storytelling, to physical movement, I love seeing what is unique in each child. I truly believe that we learn at least as much from the children as we teach, and that is what excites me about this field.

Raymond Sanchez
Resource Teacher

My name is Raymond Sanchez and I am thrilled to be part of the UHMCC teaching team. I have worked with children my entire adult life and enjoy helping children discover the world around them. I earned a BS in Human Services from the University of Phoenix. My passion for traveling and love of teaching has brought me to the beautiful islands of Hawai‘i for what is sure to be a life changing adventure. I am a native to Los Angeles and raised on the beach in Venice where my entire family resides. I enjoy listening to all types of music and taking pictures of natural and creative objects. I look forward to sharing many memories and experiences during my time here in Hawai‘i.

Kara Nishijima
Resource Teacher, Website & IT, CCAMPIS Education Coordinator,

Kara loves encouraging and inspiring the natural creativity and curiosity of children as they learn about and discover the world around them. She believes that young children have a lot to share, values the perspectives they bring, and wants to let their voices be heard. “I love helping families and being a part of children’s lives. Experiencing the joy, wonder, and love they bring into this world is so rich and rewarding.” Kara received her BA from the University of San Diego in Liberal Arts (Education) and Masters in Early Childhood Education from Mills College. She worked at the Harold E. Jones Child Study Center at UC Berkeley for 3 years, then returned home to Hawai‘i and joined the UHMCC ‘ohana in 2007.
Norine Yuen
Fiscal Specialist, CCAMPIS Student Services Coordinator

2600 Campus Road, QLCSS 414B
Honolulu, HI 96822
Phone: 808-956-9009
Fax: 808-956-4160