In Partnership with the Southern Weekend

“Grow Your Own Teacher” initiative helps Hawaii students become educators

Addressing Hawaii's chronic teacher shortage

Sponsored by University of Hawaii System and “Be A Hero. Be A Teacher.” Initiative

Schools and students across Hawaii are impacted by the state’s chronic teacher shortage. In response, the state started the “Grow Your Own Teacher” Initiative to help support those in Hawaii who were pursuing their dreams of becoming teachers. Michelle Kidani, Senate Vice President and Chairwoman of the Committee on Education, played a key role in making the initiative a reality.

“I worked with our UH College of Education to put together an online program that could keep these educators in the classroom, but allow them to earn their teaching certificate,” Senator Kidani explains. “It was really important to me to not only offer a tuition waiver if they continue to work in the DOE for five years after completion of the program, but also that they could continue to teach as they earned their credentials.”

The program is a three-semester cohort and its first class recently graduated in May 2019. “I am grateful that we were able to secure funding to continue this great program,” says Senator Kidani.

Funding was also secured for a similar program at Leeward Community College, which would certify teachers on the Leeward Coast for special education. Many schools, including Oahu’s Leeward Coast have trouble retaining teachers.

Senator Kidani says raising teacher pay would also help alleviate the teacher shortage in Hawaii. She explains that one way to keep more money in teachers’ pockets is to eliminate license fees.

“This year I was so glad to finally get the Hawaii Teacher Standards Board general funded,” Senator Kidani says. “It has been more than a decade since HTSB switched to being funded exclusively by teacher license fees.” She explains that while this fee may not seem like a lot of money, HTSB has eliminated all license fees now that they are fully funded through general fund appropriations. Senator Kidani has also been pushing the DOE to look at teacher housing options. “We all know the cost of housing is a big squeeze on our budgets, but I believe if we can offer some level of relief for teachers, it will pay dividends in recruitment and retention,” she says.

Senator Kidani says teaching is one of the most important professions we have. “Teachers are the core of how we educate and prepare the next generation of leaders and employees to take our place,” she says. “Without highly qualified and dedicated teachers, it would be nearly impossible.” The senator pledges to continue to work on improving teacher working conditions, access to resources, and doing whatever possible to keep them teaching in the classroom.

For more information: beaherobeateacher.com