Hoʻohaʻaheo: Public School Proud [Sponsored]


Students will develop their authentic voice as contributors to equity, excellence and innovation, by providing input on what they learn, how they learn and where they learn.


Kauaʻi Educators Team Up to Advance Student Voice

by Kristen Brummel, Hope Street Group & Christine Strobel, Communications Branch

A team of Garden Isle educators collected student voice on how the Hawai‘i State Department of Education (HIDOE) informs Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) across its schools. They belong to the Kaua‘i Teacher Fellowship, organized by Hope Street Group fellow Jonathon Medeiros to bring teacher and student voice into administrative decision-making.

It’s good timing for this work. Superintendent Christina Kishimoto has made student voice a foundational strategy for implementing equity and excellence in public education, and has called for student voice to inform a statewide SEL Framework.

It’s ambitious work for a team of educators who have full-time jobs in the classroom, but as the adults closely connected with students on campus, they’re the right leaders of this work to answer … Do students have the power to improve the culture of their schools?

Finding Roots

The fellowship meets quarterly to share impactful classroom practices. At its third meeting this school year on January 31, they started with a review of place-based learning and Philosophy for Children (p4c) to help ground them in the SEL work.

They met at the Lawa‘i International Center near Kalāheo to hear about the history of the Lawa‘i Valley and spend time in its new Hall of Compassion, built in the style of a traditional 13th century Japanese temple. At the turn of the century a replica of the pilgrimage of Shikoku was built there, with 88 Buddhist shrines, by Japanese immigrants who worked at the Kōloa Sugar Company. For years it was the epicenter of community celebrations, but as families moved away and sugar production declined, it fell into memory and was consumed by tropical growth. A former teacher, Lynn Muramoto, made it her life’s work to restore the site. It’s now open two Sundays a month and hosts an annual Pilgrimage of Compassion.

Unearthing a place of peace… growing schools of compassion.

Finding Philosophy

In the Hall of Compassion, fellows sat in a circle to learn about p4c from fellow teacher Laurelle Catbagan; she was trained in p4c through UH-Mānoa’s Uehiro Academy. It starts with an understanding of Intellectual Safety — no comments intended to negate, devalue, or ridicule. Teachers were prompted to consider a “good wondering” — makes you think deeply, has more than one answer, something everyone can talk about … and interesting! The fellows chose to discuss: “Does everyone deserve compassion?”

Catbagan tossed a Community Ball to the teacher who crafted the question, granting him the right to speak. He then chose who spoke next and tossed the ball; it goes around the circle until all have contributed, while the teacher facilitates. (Anyone can pass.) At the end of the discussion, a reflection is conducted on how the group listened, focused, and participated. They analyze the quality of the thinking — was something new learned? did it get beneath the surface? Catbagan shared ways the activity can be differentiated for an elementary versus a high school classroom.

With the morning sessions providing context, the fellows reconvened at Kaua‘i High to get to the task at hand.

Settling Questions

The fellowship refined questions, identified during their November convening, to determine if students are empowered to make positive culture change in their schools, gathering student and teacher perspectives. Student questions were adjusted for age groups to ensure adult guidance isn’t needed.

That spring, they conducted an islandwide online form survey with open-response fields, as well as at least one focus group each of students and teachers at each fellow’s school. (See table below for sample questions.)

The fellows met with Kaua‘i administrators at the end of the school year to reflect on results and discuss next steps.

Questions - Kauai Teacher Fellowship

Sample questions from the open-response survey courtesy of the Kauaʻi Teacher Fellowship.


CREATIVE EXPRESSION AT MOLOKA‘I HIGH SCHOOL – The ability to think creatively, bring expressive ideas to life, and communicate imaginatively are skills that help students succeed far beyond art class. For the past 22 years, art & media teacher Perry Buchalter has been empowering students at Moloka‘i High School to discover and express their voices by establishing foundational techniques, and then giving students freedom to explore.

License to Lead

by Kristilyn Oda, Leadership Institute

Many Hawaiʻi residents wonder if neighborhood schools are meeting the true needs of today’s learners. Rather than thinking of Hawai‘i’s school system as a contractor that spray paints the same hue on every campus, let’s consider a system of schools that each create their own unique color according to the strengths of its stakeholders and then shine together in a vibrant rainbow. After all, the innovative and complex world we live in is no longer sustained by a standard-issue eight-pack of Crayolas.

Kristilyn Oda

Kristilyn Oda collaborates with teacher-leaders statewide to improve outcomes for students.

Because teachers are the ones trusted to effectively integrate solid instruction and emerging research to ensure students are college, career and community-ready graduates, schools need to rise to the immense challenge of widespread collaboration. Maximizing the benefits of technology, honoring diversity, strengthening the arts, as well as beefing up STEM, environmental and computer science instruction require more time, energy, talent and resources than ever before. There is a call to invest in professional learning that brings all parties to advance design thinking around local solutions that impact the greater population. By opening the doors so that a school’s stu- dents, families, staff and local partners contribute to discussions on major concerns and plans, a variety of perspectives can be valued and time allotted to listen with the intent to center the next steps wisely.

Enthusiastic educators are currently organizing professional learning experiences such as unconferences, cross-school visitations, and Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teaching and Teachers (ECET2) events. They are writing about practices to national audiences and hosting focus groups for input to the Superintendent’s office. Teachers are also engaging more readily on Twitter, creating content to inspire others with discussions about education issues in real-time. Statewide #808educate chats include a wide range of public, public charter and private school educators exploring social-emotional learning, digital literacy, equity, place/project-based learning and diversity through sharing curated links, connections and firsthand experiences.

Hawaii Department of Education Employees

As educators are empowered to lead, the experiences cultivate belonging and shared vision, a greater sense of interdependence, and prompts tremendous progress on collective goals. A strong learning environment is one that sets staff free to grow and apply their strengths in well-suited leadership roles that contribute to student success. A system of schools striving to create more opportunities for teachers to give their perspective to expand vision, make decisions for positive outcomes and share the responsibility to monitor the quality of instruction is one that sets up an imperative channel of communication that taps into highly relevant expertise. Schools moving forward with a core value of shared leadership strengthen the commitment to shape policy that is responsive to the needs of their students and communities.

Daniella White

Daniella White, Grade 12, Hawaiʻi State Board of Education Student Representative, James Campbell High School

What would a school of the future look like to you?

If I were designing a school for the future, I would make sure to get the opinions and perspectives of multiple kids, this way you have lots of ideas and you can be sure the school meets everyone’s needs. I would like to see more project-based learning and group work so that you can learn while you are also learning to interact with others. There should also be choice in terms of the projects we get to pick. Another idea I have is to include a variety of courses that go beyond just the core courses like mathematics and English language arts. For example, we might have courses in robotics, gardening, construction or video-game design!


STUDENT VOICE AT KĪHEI ELEMENTARY SCHOOL – In support of the HIDOE’s strategic plan, teachers and administrators at Kīhei Elementary School are implementing strategies to inspire students to use their voices to create positive change in their school community.


Categories: Education

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