Skip To Main Content
Meet the Teach: Shelly Kong
Elizabeth McDonnell

Shelly Kong teaches 4 year olds at Queen Emma Preschool. Born and raised in Hawaiʻi, Ms. Shelly was herself a student at Queen Emma Preschool for three years. She then attended Kanoelani Elementary School and Highlands Intermediate. After graduating from Pearl City High School in 2005, she earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Family Resources, with a focus on early childhood education, from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.

Ms. Shelly volunteered and worked part time at Queen Emma Preschool during high school and college. During college, she also interned at the UH Manoa Children’s Center where she worked as a student teacher in one of the 4 year old classes, helping  the teachers plan various activities and to assess student development. After college, she worked alongside her sister as a teacher at India Education Methods (iMath) where she contributed to curriculum and teacher development.

Ms. Shelly returned to Queen Emma Preschool as a full-time floating substitute and later became the third member of the Aloha Kamaliʻ teaching team.  “Since 2018,” she says, “I’ve had the pleasure of working alongside my mother, Rene Kong, in the Leialoha Class. I teach 4 year olds alongside Ms. Rene and Ms. Kalissa.”

What made you want to pursue a teaching career?  
I have several family members who were teachers: my great-grandpa, my Popo (Chinese grandma), several aunties, and my mom, Ms. Rene, who has been a preschool teacher at Queen Emma Preschool for nearly 40 years! I guess you could say that teaching runs in the family. With so many great mentors within my family, going into education felt natural. I had plenty of role models who each had their own wisdom to bestow onto me.  

What is your favorite part about teaching?
My favorite thing about teaching is bearing witness to the awe and wonder that comes with early childhood education. Preschoolers are primed for learning. They’re like sponges! Everything they see, hear, smell, taste, and touch teaches them more and more about the world around them. Every interaction, every win, and every failure makes them into the person they’ll become. The growth that we see in every child every year is just tremendous. It’s inspiring to see – and is a great reminder to myself to never lose that wonder and freedom to learn and explore.

What goal are you working on?
One of my goals as a teacher is to incorporate more process art activities in our class curriculum.  Throughout the pandemic, we’ve noticed a greater need for sensory play and play provocations/open-ended types of play. Process art addresses these needs wonderfully!  It provides great opportunities for children to experiment, discover, and create. It also allows them to express themselves in different ways when they may not have the words to do so just yet. Salad spinner art seems to be our biggest hit so far!

A personal goal of mine is to learn how to make croissants! I know it’s an involved process, but I’m up for the challenge!

What is the best part about teaching at SAS? 
I love the family atmosphere at Queen Emma Preschool. I feel so lucky to be surrounded by so many nurturing and knowledgeable educators. They all offer unconditional support for one another; it truly feels like a family.  

Who or what inspires you?
My colleagues and my director inspire me. They’re such great role models. Many of them, including my mother, have been early childhood educators for nearly 40 years. In my eyes, their experience and wisdom is unmatched! They have all truly shaped me into the educator I am today.

What is the best advice you have been given?
I’ve received plenty of little nuggets of wisdom; it’s hard to choose which is the best! One piece of advice that I’ve heard from lots of different people is this: Make sure to take time for yourself, and not just time spent watching TV or scrolling through posts on socials. To truly invest in time for yourself, whether it’s doing something, going somewhere, or learning something new you’ve always wanted to…like making croissants.

What is your wish for your students?
My one wish for all my students is to be kind people. Kind to others and kind to themselves. To be understanding of others and themselves.  

What is one interesting thing people may not know about you? 
I think something that not everyone knows is that I am a cancer survivor. I have been cancer free since May 2016!   

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?  
I love spending time with my family, shopping, and watching true crime documentaries, survival shows, and cooking shows.

Please tell us about your family. 
I’m the middle child with an older sister and a younger brother, both of whom are educators. My father was a pharmacistfor many years before retiring in December 2021. He loves it! My mother is famously Ms. Rene, superstar Leialoha teacher for 37 years and counting! I live with my boyfriend who is my high school sweetheart. We’ve been together for 19 years!  I’m hoping to add to our little family someday but for now, I am a very happy plant-mom to a very healthy pothos plant!