A Generation of Mauli Ola Hawaiʻi Educators

Mauli Ola Educators
Kahuawaiola Cohort 4 at their graduation in May 2006 (front row l-r) Maika Woods, ‘Ilima Hose, Kalua Castro, Pohākalani Tolentino- Perry, Kilia Purdy-Avelino, Leilani Franco-Mar, and ‘Auli‘i Hopeau. Back row (l-r) Kamuela Yim and Lehuanui Watanabe-Emocling. - Photo: Courtesy

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By Kananinohea Māka‘imoku, Kanoe Kanaka‘ole and Noelani Iokepa-Guerrero

“Becoming a Hawaiian cultural identity teacher isn’t just a job. Teaching fills your whole life as an opportunity, a responsibility, and a gift.” – Kamehaʻililani Waiau, 2002 graduate, school principal, and teacher

Kahuawaiola Indigenous Teacher Education prepares and trains educators for Hawaiian language and culture education. Beginning in 1998, 84% of its graduates continue to teach in Hawaiʻi’s schools, from preschool to doctoral programs. Students are immersed through the ʻōlelo and the Kumu Honua Mauli Ola philosophy to develop the perspectives, attitudes, skills, and knowledge of a mauli ola teacher. They are grounded in a Hawaiian cultural identity of Hawaiian spirituality, language, traditional knowledge, practices, understandings, and Hawaiian behaviors. They cultivate relationships and carry responsibility for their environment and community.

As Waiau states, “The philosophy of mauli Hawaiʻi is similar to the concept of the flame that burns within each of us.” It is this flame that the Kahuawaiola teacher shares to light the lives of the students and families they touch. As Kamuela Yim (2006graduate) shares, “My greatest goal, when it comes to teaching in the Hawaiian language, is to rebuild a strong Hawaiian foundation within the child through the Hawaiian language.”

Kahuawaiola graduates are like bridges linking the span of traditional knowledge and contemporary application. Koa Rodrigues (2017 graduate) echoes this sentiment by adding, “this knowledge applies to various contexts in our daily Hawaiian life.”

Henani Enos (2006 graduate) is a kumu of S.T.E.M. courses at Ke Kula ʻO Nāwahīokalaniʻōpuʻu. He integrates traditional lunar knowledge and wayfinding into rigorous math and science curriculum. Aiming to elevate students’ cultural identity, he emphasizes, “Your students will be the leaders and decision-makers of our collective future.”

Not only are graduates schoolteachers, but they also serve their communities in multiple leadership capacities. Such as serving on local school and community leadership boards; teaching others Hawaiian language, history, and cultural practices such as hula, mahi ʻai, loko iʻa management, hoʻokani pila, and wellness practices. They create new spaces to engage through Hawaiian language and culture.

In 2023, Kahuawaiola will celebrate 25 years of preparing compassionate, community-serving, academically sound, committed mauli ola teachers and leaders for our keiki, ʻohana, ʻōlelo, and lāhui who understand that “if I donʻt take on the responsibility, then who will do it?” (Hauʻolikeola Pakele, 2004 graduate).

To learn more about Kahuawaiola, visit linktr.ee/Kahuawaiola.