Digital Media teacher inspires students to keep creating during pandemic

Keeping students busy and learning

Sponsored by UH System and the Hawaii State Dept. of Education

Kevin Matsunaga of Kaua’i never imagined he would follow in his father’s footsteps and become a teacher. He found his calling as the digital media teacher at Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School in Lihu’e, and his students have won many national video competitions. In 2007, the Hawai’i Department of Education recognized Matsunaga with a District Teacher of the Year award.

“I think one of the reasons that I love teaching is that everyday is different, even if you are teaching the same students,” Matsunaga says. “I also knew that it could be a very rewarding profession, but I really had no idea just how much. When you get a thank you note from a parent or a student that truly appreciates all that you’ve done for them, it really is a special feeling to have.”

Matsunaga believes that to be a good teacher, you have to put in a lot of extra hours that you are not compensated for. He’s always looking for ways to improve the things he’s doing in his class and that involves a lot of extra time. Despite the long hours he puts in, Matsunaga returns year after year because he sees how much his class impacts students and what it means to them.

“They grow in so many ways, and I have a front row seat for all of it. I get to see them struggle and oftentimes fail, only to get back up, try something new, problem solve, and then eventually achieve success,” he says. “It’s literally is one of the coolest things to see.”

During these challenging times, Matsunaga’s advanced media level two class has continued to produce its morning announcement show three times a week. The students all have equipment at home they can use or they are using things like their cell phones or personal cameras to record themselves. Some of his students have even started a podcast during this self quarantine period. You can listen to “The Couch Pueo Podcast” here:

“It’s been such a weird time around the world for everyone, and I’m just trying to keep them busy with things to do so they aren’t focused on all the negative stuff,” Matsunaga explains.

For Matsunaga, he says the most rewarding part of his job is seeing his students make progress in their learning and knowing that he helped them to learn something new.