Director of Kupu Hou Academy
How long have you been working at Mid-Pacific?
I have been an educator since 1982 – my first 3 years were in Massachusetts. I started at Mid-Pacific in the Fall 1985, so this marks my 37th school year here. Over the years my roles have been: Math Teacher (1985), Science Teacher (1986), Canoe Paddling Coach (1987), Technology Teacher (1997), Science Academic Chair (1995), Technology Coordinator (1997), Technology Academic Chair (2003), Director of Mid-Pacific Exploratory (MPX) (2010), Director of Kupu Hou Academy (2019-present)
Why do you enjoy working at Mid-Pacific?
First and foremost, the people. In my early years I was blessed to have amazing colleagues and mentors to help me navigate the school, and moving to and living in Hawai‘i. Whether it is fellow teachers, current and former administrators, staff members, former and current students and parents, Mid-Pacific has always had a strong sense of culture and belonging. As friend and long time MPI student, parent and employee Bill Wheeler says “We Bleed Green.” A lot about the world has changed since 1985, but the people have not – they’re still caring and committed to this work and to this school.
Additionally Mānoa is an incredible location to live, work and play everyday. What an amazing campus we have with all of the natural beauty that surrounds us. I have never tired of seeing rainbows almost everyday and the valley and mountains that wrap around and embrace the school.
Mid-Pacific has always encouraged innovation. I have had the privilege of working with three presidents and eight principals in my time here. All of them committed to Mid-Pacific being the best version of itself, always asking, how do we make this place a joyful, powerful place for all of us – faculty and staff, students and our extended ‘ohana? Our alumni and long-time supporters and board members have embraced our sense of commitment to our cherished and valuable past and are looking to prepare all of us to be ready for a dynamic future.
How has education evolved and what do you see is the future of education?
Some of my earliest teaching experiences in the 1980’s helped form my educational philosophy. Even in my early 20’s I could see that when students saw purpose in their learning, when they had a reason to know it, when it was hands-on and personal, they wanted to learn more. In the intervening 40 years a lot more research in neurologic and cognitive science has come out. There have been many studies looking at what kind of learning best prepares students to be good humans, caring members of society, confident to make a difference in their community. School in the past was a list of things to be learned – with little deviation from sequence, the way you learned it, how many chances you had to get it right, or just connecting it to a reason other than “you might need this someday”. I believe Mid-Pacific is leading the way in rethinking all of these aspects – what we learn, when we learn it, how we learn it. Let’s say the analogy is we are traveling to an interesting destination. The journey for each one of our learners needs to be a little different – some need more support and guidance, some want to wander around a little to get the lay of the land, some want to forge a new pathway. When we design learning recognizing each learner can get there, but their needs and pathways need to be differentiated and connected to purpose, we see incredible results in their learning and their passion for learning.
Technology has become interwoven with this work. Whether it was the introduction of word processing, the internet, easy to use tools for digital storytelling, computer science and robotics, artificial intelligence, or a myriad of other tools that have come and will continue to evolve, they are tools that support the kind of learning that empowers all in the community. Our description of this kind of learning is Deeper Learning because of the contrast with shallow learning (memorize, test, move on, or learn it but never apply it or understand why it matters). When we use technology in student-centered, deeper learning environments like Mid-Pacific it is an enabler, an amplifier and a differentiator that empowers students.
Can you explain what Kupu Hou does and why it’s so important not only for our school, but the greater community?
In our Pre-K to 12 work at Mid-Pacific we have developed a lot of expertise in supporting student-centered, deeper learning school environments. Our goal is “deeper learning in every school, every day.” That doesn’t mean we work with a school and say “do it like us,” it means sitting beside teachers and administrators and giving them the tools, resources, structures, time, and learning to increase their ability to affect learning in their school communities. No two school communities are the same and no two schools need the same support. Much the same as we believe each learner needs a slightly different learning journey, we believe each school needs a plan and a process that meets their needs. We help them better understand where they are at and then help shape a pathway to a better version of themselves.
What is your role at Kupu Hou? Can you briefly explain what you do?
In my role of Director, I communicate and create awareness of the work we do to support schools, I work with our team to design and implement strategies to help the schools we work with, I build relationships and a community of practice for our work here in the islands and throughout the world, and champion the work of Mid-Pacific and all the schools that have embraced this kind of learning. In the process we build capacity in our institution, we provide additional resources to continue doing this work and celebrate our unique position in the international educational community.
Why did you decide to send your children to Mid-Pacific?
I have had 3 alumni children: Jim ‘94, Aukai ‘15 and Ka’io ‘20. For all the reasons I love Mid-Pacific (mentioned above) I hoped they would enjoy the benefits of being part of this amazing school community. Yes, it would get them ready for college and beyond, but more importantly it would connect them to powerful mentors, lifelong friends and experiences that would enrich and inform who they are and would grow into becoming. And, I had the privilege of having them in my classroom and coaching them – and what a joy that was – to be part of their lives as a member of this community, not just a parent.
When looking at “success” for a student, how is that measured? What does success mean to you?
One of my favorite descriptions was offered by former student and fellow Mid-Pacific faculty Gregg Kaneko: “I want to be able to go out with them as adults and enjoy their company.” What does that mean? That they are confident, they are kind, they care about their community, they have a purpose in life, they know who they are and continue to become better versions of themself. Their actions and their values make us proud to be associated with them. They are good humans.