Angie Cabreira enrolls in Flex to become an ECE teacher
As a 17-year-old senior in high school, Angela “Angie” Cabreira ’16 started to panic whenever she was asked about her college plans. Admittedly, she didn’t have any. So rather than attend university, she decided instead to move from Idaho to Molokai to be with her sister, the late Julie Marie Pierson Place.
“Two years later, in 1988, I relocated to Hilo on the Big Island where I have lived ever since,” said Cabreira during a phone interview. “All I wanted at that time was to get married, have 12 kids, bake, garden and take care of all the neighbors’ kids.”
Dreams of obtaining a bachelor’s degree quickly faded, and Cabreira became more impassioned about motherhood, eventually having three of her own kids and raising a hānai daughter, now between ages 22 and 38. She deliberately chose to be a stay-at-home mom “for a long time,” raising her keiki and establishing a childcare service for local families.
“I love being around kids,” Cabreira said. “So I got a job at Waiakea Elementary School, where I worked for 13 years, mostly as a student activity coordinator and for a few years I was with the Parent-Community Networking Center.”
Cabreira, though, wanted more. She began taking early childhood education (ECE) classes at Hawaii Community College while serving as a teaching assistant with Keiki Steps. She then started a new full-time position with Tūtū and Me, and continued to take ECE classes at Hawaii Community College while now also taking online courses at Chaminade University to obtain her Associate in Science (AS) degree in ECE.
“When I began working full time for Kamehameha Preschools in 2015, I transferred to Chaminade’s online program so that I would have the ability to work full time and still go to school,” Cabreira recalled. “This was not an option at Hawaii Community College since they didn’t offer evening classes nor online classes for the degree I was seeking. Chaminade was ideal because I didn’t have to be in a classroom at a certain time and that was what I needed.”
When Cabreira entered college in 2011, online courses and degrees were just beginning to gain popularity and become viable options for working adults. Today, advancements in technology, course design and high-speed internet availability are moving online learning forward.
Chaminade’s Flex Online Undergraduate program is WSCUC-accredited (WASC Senior College and University Commission) and has a broad range of study disciplines, including business administration, criminology and criminal justice, historical and political studies, education and psychology. It is designed with working adults in mind, distancing itself from rigid term schedules and due dates to give students the flexibility they need to achieve a work-life-school balance and make progress toward reaching their goals.
“I love the Flex program because there are no deadlines,” Cabreira said. “It’s the reason I decided to pursue my bachelor’s degree at Chaminade.”
In fall 2022, Cabreira enrolled in the University’s early Early Childhood Education bachelor’s program, which is aligned with state requirements and National Association for the Education of Young Children standards, and was ranked by Best Colleges as #8 Best Online Early Childhood Education Programs of 2023.
“I want to be a positive voice for kids and parents,” Cabreira said. “I thought I was satisfied supporting teachers and families. But if I could be a lead kumu, I could make more of an impact.”
As she started the program, her sister, Julie, was diagnosed with a blockage in an artery that supplied blood and oxygen to her intestines. Treatment included 11 surgeries, but it was too late. Her intestines had shut down.
“When she passed, I was sad, depressed and unmotivated to do my homework,” Cabreira said. “During this time, Bro. Allen Pacquing encouraged me to keep going, and gave me time to grieve. All my other professors didn’t give up on me, either, and I knew that my sister would not have wanted me to quit.”
This past September, Cabreira took a single course. In October, she enrolled in four courses. And in February 2024, she will take another four classes. By July, she hopes to be doing her practicum. However, because of her age, she can’t simply skim readings like her younger peers, and she has to watch every assigned video.
“It takes me longer,” admitted Cabreira, 57. “I want to pass with all As, but my daughter—who earned a BA in Psychology from UC Irvine—reminds me that Bs also get degrees.”
Cabreira may not have been able to birth 12 kids, but now she has 20—in her classroom.
“I can’t be a lead kumu without my bachelors degree, and that’s the goal,” Cabreira said. “The plan is to graduate in January 2025. Yes, it will take a very long time, but I’m determined.”