Kidani Initiative Aims to Help New Teachers

Chloe Kitsu

     In January 2018, a new pilot initiative called, “Grow Our Own,” that gives substitute, emergency hire and part-time teachers opportunities to get their teaching certification will be launched.

     “‘Grow Your Own’ basically means, use our own talent of teachers or people who are in the teaching arena already and help them to get certified so they can be full fledged teachers. Hopefully, that will make a big difference for not just the teacher shortage, but for the students who I think need more role models,” said Senator and Hawaii State Senate Education Chairperson Michelle Kidani.

     The Grow Our Own initiative has already received a substantial amount of funding. “We have $400,000 in the state’s budget that we were able to put in this last session and I believe the DOE is looking to put in another $200,000, so we’re hoping that we can do maybe, three or four classes,” said Kidani.

     Data has shown that the shortage of teachers in Hawaii have been very significant. “I looked at the data over the past couple of years, I’ve noticed that in some areas, there has been a 40 to 45 percent turnover of teachers and these are in areas that are hard to fill. And yet in the same group we have a lot of returning substitute teachers and educational assistants,” explained Kidani.

     Due to the drop in teachers, Kidani began to look into why eligible substitute, emergency hire and part time teachers were not getting certified to become regular classroom teachers. “Part of the reason why these substitute teachers with their BA degrees haven’t finished (is) because they needed to work, but the programs were just not available. And for those on the Central Oahu and Leeward Coast couldn’t, after school, drive out to Manoa with the traffic and there were no classes at that time,” said Kidani, “Things are looking up and we’re hoping that the pilot program draws more attention to our needs for our teachers.”

     Although the DOE has tried different ways to recruit teachers, Kidani feels that this initiative will be a fresh start. “And I think, to me, actually this should be just the start of how we look at recruiting teachers,” said Kidani.

     Kidani also feels that recruiting teachers locally will benefit the students. “For many years the DOE recruits on the mainland, particularly from the east coast, but for the most part they don’t stay. And because they don’t stay, and because the DOE continues to put new teachers in the hard to fill areas, those students, particularly the Waianae coast, they don’t really have new teachers, younger teachers, that they’re going to bond to,” said Kidani.

     This initiative has garnered positive feedback. “Hiring locally is great concept. It saves time and money which could be used for other areas. Working with our universities and pre-education program providers allow for various types of ways to get a degree (online, asynchronous, synchronous, hybrid).  Many of our families still have to work and go to school at the same time so various options in the program will assist the participants in obtaining a degree,” said Nanakuli Elementary Principal Lisa Higa.

     Some also feel that the initiative will draw more attention to the art of teaching. “If it successfully attracts more people into a focused pursuit of teaching credentials, then it will be successful. We hope to see these people filling positions locally,” said Assistant Principal Andrea Moore.

     Although the initiative may provide a fill for the teacher shortage, some teachers feel that they may not be ready to handle the job. “Substitute or part-time teachers with no prior classroom teaching experience can face huge obstacles in a classroom setting that is theirs alone. In addition to this, substitutes with no teaching background don’t know what it’s like to plan appropriate lessons and map the curriculum for the whole year,” said Social Studies teacher David Francisco,  ¨I think it’s a start, however, if we don’t provide a solid foundation for these current individuals, then they may not want to continue on the path to becoming a ‘real’ classroom teacher.¨

     A long term goal for the initiative is to eventually get teachers a raise in pay. ¨The long term goals really are to get the teachers a decent starting wage is what they truly deserve,¨ said Kidani.

     Another goal of the initiative is to hopefully get more local substitute teachers, emergency hire teachers, part-time teachers, and future teachers of this generation certified. “But mainly it’s for hopefully to have our local teachers, our local students, who are already here or want to come back and get a teaching degree, to be interested in the program and find a little niche for themselves and be part of our education system,” said Kidani.

     As next year comes around, the expectations for the Grow Our Own initiative remain hopeful for many.