Rep. Mina Morita's Blog


Growing Our Own Teachers On Kauai

Posted in Education,Events,Kauai by Mina Morita on September 19, 2010

I like it when people stop to talk story with me at the grocery store or post office.  I usually get caught up on or a new issue is brought to my attention.  Yesterday at Foodland-Princeville was no exception.  George Corrigan, the President of the Rotary Club of Hanalei Bay, was at the entrance encouraging people to participate in Give Aloha, Foodland’s annual community matching gifts program which runs from September 1 to September 30.  For every customer’s $1.00 contributed, Foodland will match up to $249.00 to a non-profit.  The non-profit George was advocating for is Growing Our Own Teachers On Kauai, which started out as a community service project of the Hanalei Rotary.  The purpose of this non-profit is to provide needed financial aid to teacher candidates who live on Kauai and aspire to become teachers in Kauai schools.

In Hawaii, and nationally, there is a severe shortage of good, qualified teachers.  In the past, the State Department of Education actively recruited teachers from the mainland paying relocation bonus resulting in few longterm benefits to our public education system. Now, through distance learning we can “grow and nurture” potential teacher candidates within our own communities and the retention and commitment to teaching within our communities is much more successful.  A critical partner in this effort is the University of Hawaii, College of Education with its Statewide Teacher Education Program, which offers distance learning on its neighbor island campuses rather than having teacher candidates relocate to the UH Manoa campus.

Growing Our Teachers On Kauai steps in, providing financial assistance, at a critical juncture for these teacher candidates:

Most local teacher candidates have to pay for their own college education.  They do it by working a full-time job or several part-time jobs.  Many candidates have families of their own or are the sole income provider for their families.  They have to balance family, work and school at the same time.  With tuition, plus books, a computer, software, supplies, and other associated expenses, the costs are approximately $5,000 per semester or $20,000 for the two-year program.

In spite of all this, there are many local teacher candidates who have the motivation and dedication to tough it through.  Until that is, their final semester.  At that time, they must quit their jobs and serve full-time in the classroom with their mentor teacher, Monday through Friday, everyday.  Teacher candidates do not get paid for student teaching and the commitment to teaching is full-time.  Many teacher candidates cannot afford to finish that last stretch to become a teacher.

I guess the first question a person would ask a Legislator like me is why don’t these teacher candidates get a stipend.  I don’t know the answer to that question except this is another expense that has to compete with all the other general fund needs of our State.

As I was going through the Foodland checkout line I spotted this Time magazine cover.  Right below the bus window it says “It Starts With The Teachers”.  Since 2002 the Lingle-Aiona administration tried to peg school reform on one issue, locally elected school boards.  The Chair of the House Committee on Education, Representative Roy Takumi, has studied the issue of school reform extensively.  What is clear is governance of a school system (local versus state board of education) has little to do with successful schools.

Throughout the country, successful schools have these common characteristics:  (1) Principals with effective leadership qualities, (2) Skilled and dedicated teachers, (3) Involved parents and active community support, (4) An Articulated Curriculum, (5) A Safe and Healthy Learning Environment.  Using this framework, I have supported legislation that brought funding and decision-making directly under local school control, worked to reduce class size, add more money for textbooks and modernize computers and technology infrastructure, tried to address the teacher shortage by providing fair compensation to retain and attract skilled and dedicated educators, established a Principal’s Academy to enhance leadership skills, established and adjusted the weighted student formula to adequately address a student’s special needs.

There is no doubt that so much more has to be done to transform and improve public education in Hawaii and I can’t thank the Rotary Club of Hanalei Bay enough and its support of Growing Our Own Teachers on Kauai in helping to address one of the most fundamental challenges to our public education system, attracting and retaining skilled and qualified teachers in our rural communities.  So until September 30 double your contribution to this worthy non-profit by making a donation while checking out at Foodland.

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5 Responses to 'Growing Our Own Teachers On Kauai'

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  1. CAROL SEIELSTAD said,

    Thank you so much for supporting teachers! We have also started a Hanalei School Foundation (http://hanaleischool.org). Strong community (including of course, parents but actually including all of us) is so important. Thank you for your support for education through the years.

    Aloha, Carol

    • Mina Morita said,

      Thanks Carol: Yes, community and parent support is critical and one of the five characteristic of a good school. Has the Hanalei School Foundation signed up for Foodland’s Give Aloha matching program too? If so, do you have the program number (the number the cashier rings up) when people make a contribution?

  2. Dr Kani Blackwell (DrB) said,

    What a wonderful blog to support our local Kauai teacher candidates by talking about the Growing Our Own Teachers on Kauai, now a 501(c)3 public charity. As the founder of Growing Our Own Teachers, I would like to give you a short background of the beginning. In 2005, I spoke to the legislature on Oahu with Gary Hooser, who was then Educational Chair, to try and get a stipend or support for our Homegrown teachers. Although the concept was received well by members of the legislature, it was stated there was no money to fund the effort. After speaking at the Hanalei Bay Rotary Club November 2006, the Growing Our Own Teachers on Kauai was born. Other Kauai Rotary Clubs, and the community then stepped forward to embrace and give support to our local teacher candidates. Growing Our Own Teachers is now active on Maui and Hawaii Island as well as Kauai. With community support, highly qualified teachers, who do make a difference, will be in our schools. Thank you again for helping to spread the word! about homegrown teachers. DrB

    • Mina Morita said,

      Aloha Dr. Blackwell – thank you for giving me more history on the program. I knew the issue of the stipend was discussed at the Legislature but I couldn’t remember when and in what context. And, I also remember all the discussions on the advantages of having educational opportunities on island because the investment in these students will more likely continue to live within the community and benefit the community in the longterm. I know this College of Education program has been a success on Kauai through your personal efforts. Thank you for your dedication to the program and teacher candidates.


  3. […] weeks ago I wrote about what makes a great school.  Here is an excerpt from that post: Since 2002 the Lingle-Aiona administration tried to peg school reform on one issue, locally […]


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