In recognition of her work in educating and uplifting Native Hawaiians over the past two-plus decades, Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu was honored with the Kamehameha Schools 2018 Native Hawaiian Community Educator of the Year award at the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement’s (CNHA) Native Hawaiian Convention at the Prince Waikiki.
The Native Hawaiian Community Educator of the Year award recognizes visionary education leaders in Hawai‘i who create learning environments that successfully engage Native Hawaiian learners. Award recipients are contributors to the practice and perpetuation of the Hawaiian culture and language, and are known for involving families and communities throughout the learning process.
“Today, we honor a leader who is a champion for educating Native Hawaiians of all ages and improving their overall well-being,” said KS Senior Policy Analyst Ka‘ano‘i Walk, who introduced Wong-Kalu. “Long before ‘Hawaiian culture-based education’ was a buzz phrase, she blazed a trail for local educators by teaching through a Native Hawaiian lens. A proud graduate of Kamehameha Schools, Kumu Hina is an ‘ōiwi leader with a strong cultural identity that has propelled her into a life of educational leadership and community advocacy.”
Upon graduating from Kamehameha Schools in 1990, Wong-Kalu went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Hawaiian studies from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa and later returned to school to earn a B.A. in education. She began teaching ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i through Leeward Community College in an effort revive the Hawaiian language and culture in communities island-wide.
Wong-Kalu then began her work to improve the health of Hawaiians at Ke Ola Mamo Native Hawaiian Health Care System where she served as board president for the nonprofit, and helped educate those who were at high risk for sexually transmitted diseases. Her most influential educational work ensued from 2001 to 2014 when she took on the role of cultural director at Hālau Lōkahi Public Charter School where she infused a rigorous Hawaiian culture-based education program at the school and empowered a new generation of scholars.
Revered within the Hawaiian community as “Kumu Hina,” Wong-Kalu currently serves as Community Advocate for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. She spends much of her time educating Native Hawaiians at Hālawa Correctional Facility and O‘ahu Community Correctional Center. She teaches the inmates Hawaiian culture-based life skills to enable them to be productive members of society.
“Thank you to all of you who have taken the time to present me with this great honor,” said Wong-Kalu, who was also given the 2018 Na Mea Hawai‘i Arts & Culture Award at the convention.
Prior to Wong-Kalu’s award presentation, KS Chief Executive Officer Jack Wong addressed the estimated 800-plus attendees and emphasized the importance of reflecting upon and building on the momentum generated during the Year of the Hawaiian.
“This is not just a year, it’s an era of change about and for our keiki,” Wong said.
Added Gov. David Ige: “I did proclaim 2018 as the Year of the Hawaiian. There’s much more work to be done, but it’s important to stop and celebrate…the Hawaiian language and culture that are thriving.”
The Native Hawaiian Convention also allowed first-year CNHA Chief Executive Officer Joe Kūhiō Lewis to connect with educators, community representatives, business leaders, cultural practitioners and politicians representing a vibrant cross-section of the lāhui.
“This is a great opportunity for us as Hawaiians to engage and understand all the knowledge our kūpuna left for us,” Lewis said. “This is the Year of the Hawaiian, and that presents an opportunity to reflect and celebrate our rich history.