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Recording history, reporting the truth & recognizing excellence.

NA HOKU O MOANALUA

Recording history, reporting the truth & recognizing excellence.

NA HOKU O MOANALUA

Lifelong artist thrives on pixels, palettes and passports

If you were to go back in time to Chela Sheets’ childhood, chances are you would find her oil painting with her grandma in South Texas. This was where her artistic and adventurous spirit was born, during hot summers at her grandma’s house, learning to sew and paint, while nurturing her creative mind.

Being surrounded by such creative energy led her to pursue art further, landing her at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. There, she studied fashion design for three years, until she decided to switch her major at the last minute.

“I want to take my time with things and appreciate the process of it,” Sheets said. “The farther I went in my upper level of fashion design classes, it was not like that. It was really fast paced, moving quickly…so [fashion] is more of a hobby now.”

So instead, she graduated with a Bachelor in Fine Arts with an emphasis in art education. While Chicago was where she first began to dip her toe into the art industry, she and her husband disliked the bitter cold temperatures. “Where could we go where it’s never winter?” she half-jokingly asked her husband.

Being young and with not much to lose, she and her husband took a leap of faith, dropping everything to move to the tropical paradise of Hawaii.

“So we got married and moved here the day we got married. Like, I went on the plane with my wedding dress. So, we are still on our honeymoon, I guess,” she laughed.

Being in a new place not knowing anybody and not having a place to live would scare most, but Sheets reminisces upon it differently. She thinks of it as a time in their lives when they could take risks that big.

They were both able to find jobs, him working at the Salvation Army, and her working at a kitschy art gallery in Waikiki. Both eventually ended up working at the Department of Education. She first came to Moanalua in 2009 to teach art and yearbook, where her staff consistently won state awards for writing and design.

Ever the adventurer, Sheets left Moanalua in 2019 to take a job with Herff Jones, the yearbook publishing company working with school yearbook advisers. There, she expanded her skill set.

“I got a little taste of a different world. But that job dealt more with adults. And I think the part that I really missed about teaching was the camaraderie of yearbook actually. And like we’re all working together on one project,” she said. “I really missed having the team unit of yearbook and making a product we’re all proud of.”

So after three-and-a-half years working at that company, she decided to come back to Moanalua.

In addition to being an art and yearbook teacher, Sheets is part of the travel club International Explorers Club along with fellow art teach Cher Takemoto and Spanish teacher Heather Paulino. Together, the trio has traveled to more than 10 places spanning the entire globe. They’ve been to Machu Picchu in Peru, the Eiffel Tower in France, and are now planning to go to Japan during Spring Break next year.

“I have always been a lifelong learner kind of mentality. I think travel is a really great way to realize how much I don’t know,” Sheets said.

She was inspired to start the club because she herself was a student traveler starting in middle school. She went to the British Isles as well as places all over the country with her family.

The creative, adventurous spirit of Sheets inspires many at Moanalua.

“She taught me to always persevere with my work and always take pride in what I do in yearbook. And just have a lot of confidence in my work,” yearbook student Shaeann Bonilla said.

Takemoto is the fine arts department chairperson and has watched Sheets flourish in her chosen career path.

“She is super talented, loves what she does…and she is an incredible mom,” said Takemoto.

Regardless of which hat she wears, Sheets hopes to emulate her grandmother and nurture the creative and adventurous spirit of the people around her.

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About the Contributor
Jameson Huang, Assoctiate Editor
Jameson Haung is a senior at Moanalua, and is in his second year for news writing. He enjoys writing stories since that is his strength. He also enjoys cooking, play tennis and hanging out with friends. 

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