The Hawai’i State Teacher Fellows Program launched in 2014 with outstanding educators from across the state’s islands. Since then the program has engaged over 60 teachers in public education to train and equip them with leadership skills based on a competency framework. Teacher Fellows expand their professional learning network in order to collaborate and mobilize their peers to positively impact students and their communities.
Teacher Fellows are empowered to leverage their professional experience and voice their expertise along with feedback from other teachers on key education issues. Teacher Fellows take on leadership roles with a solutions-oriented approach and work to elevate the profession and dialogue about public education.
2nd Grade Teacher
Leanna is a second grade teacher at Mayor Joseph J. Fern Elementary School in the Farrington-Kaiser-Kalani Complex in Honolulu. She has been teaching for almost six years in Hawai’i’s DOE. She is a National Board candidate and 2017 Locations Foundation Top Teacher Award finalist. She is currently the HSTA Honolulu Chapter Treasurer. Leanna received a BS in Elementary Education from Linfield College and a MEd in Instructional Leadership from Chaminade University.
Eileen is a teacher in the Kaimuki-McKinley-Roosevelt Complex in Honolulu. Prior to teaching in Mānoa, she taught in New York City public schools for 12 years and an additional four years in Waldorf, French immersion and EFL programs in Martinique, Taiwan and Lebanon. She embraces leadership roles that enhance her school communities, particularly those that highlight social justice, curriculum development and new teacher training. She seeks to promote learning environments that emphasize direct experience, creativity, inquiry and debate. She earned a BA in Urban Studies and French Studies from Fordham University and a Masters of Science in Education from City College.
7th and 8th Grade Teacher
“Teachers who love teaching, teach students to love learning.” This Vanessa Ching’s mantra, the 2018 Hawaii State Teacher of the Year, a NBCT, current Student Activity Coordinator, Yearbook Advisor and Green Coordinator of 7-8 graders, teaches by at Ewa Makai Middle. Her efforts earned EMMS the National Green Ribbon certification and National Plastic Free Award. As a result of our collaborative efforts with the students, staff, parents and community members EMMS was also recognized as One of the 41 Innovative Schools in America by Noodle. Vanessa earned her BA of Ed from UH Manoa and MAT from National University.
K-5th Grade Teacher
Jodi is currently the Coordinator for School Improvement and recently served as the Formative Instruction/Data Team Coordinator at Jefferson Elementary School in the Kamuki – McKinely – Roosevelt Complex. She also served as the Self-Study Coordinator and helped achieve the school’s first accreditation. She has been a teacher for the past twenty-two years, teaching second, third and fourth grades. She is a candidate for National Board Certification in Middle Childhood Generalist. Jodi received her Bachelor and Master’s Degrees in Elementary Education from the University of Hawai`i at Manoa.
Cecilia is currently an instructional coach at Kaimiloa Elementary School in Ewa Beach, Campbell/Kapolei Complex. She has taught and learned alongside her third and fourth graders for the past three years and continues to work with students, as well as teachers, in her new role as instructional coach. Outside of school, Cecilia works with teachers by leading workshops at various conferences and school events. Cecilia graduated from the University of Southern California (USC) with BAs in International Relations and Public Relations and received her MS in Educational Studies from the Johns Hopkins University.
H.S. SPED, H.S. History & Democracy Teacher
A graduate of Eastern Illinois University with a BA in Special Education, Dulcy Dawson currently teaches High School Special Education and History at West Hawaii Explorations Academy on the Big Island of Hawaii. Prior to teaching in Hawaii, she was a High School Special Education teacher for three years in Michigan and a Behavior Specialist in Illinois for over 13 years. Dulcy is most proud of her training certificate in Project Based Learning through the Buck Institute of Education that she received in 2014. On her days off, you will find Dulcy spending time with her husband and two children.
6th-8th Grade AVID College Readiness Teacher
Jill is a poet and teacher at Kapolei Middle who advocates for student and teacher voice. Her students won the seventh annual E Ola Pono award in the middle school division for cultivating a positive school culture. Jill serves in several leadership roles at KMS. She is a National Board Certified Teacher, AVID Site Team Lead, Edutopia blogger, NCTE Higher Education Policy Analyst, and Na Kumu Alakaʻi Teacher Leader. Jill holds a BA in English from Santa Clara University and an MA in English from University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.
H.S. SPED Teacher
Derek Govin is a fully-self contained special education teacher at Roosevelt High School in Honolulu. He previously taught in Sumner County, TN where he was the fully-self contained special education teacher for one year. Derek has also instructed reading intervention and ELA inclusion for 8th graders for two years. He is passionate about connecting functional academics with life skills to empower individuals with special needs to both gain access to the world around them, as well as thrive in the most independent manner. Derek received his B.S. in Interdisciplinary Studies and M.S. in Special Education from Old Dominion University in Virginia.
3rd-6th Grade Curriculum Coach
Keith Hamana has passionately served the Department of Education in Central District for the past 23 years. He has taught third, fourth, and fifth grades. For nearly 10 years, Keith has mentored numerous prospective teacher candidates. He is currently the Curriculum Coach, GT Coordinator, AVID Program Coordinator, and is part of the leadership team at Hickam Elementary School. During the 2016-2017 school year, Keith successfully completed Na Kumu Alaka’i Teacher Leadership Academy. Keith was honored as Hickam Elementary’s 2018 HSTA Teacher of Excellence. He is a proud graduate of the University of Hawai’i at Manoa’s College of Education.
H.S. Instructional Coach
Robyn is the Instructional Coach, Early College Coordinator and AVID Site Team Coordinator at Waimea High School. As an Instructional Coach, she is a mentor for new and beginning teachers, oversees the STEM Capstone Project and conducts regular Professional Development for teachers. She also participated in the Na Kumu Alaka’i Teacher Leader Academy. Robyn earned her bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Wheaton College in Illinois and Master’s Degree in Elementary Education from the University of Phoenix.
5th Grade Teacher
Verona has spent her 13-year career working in various schools and positions throughout the United States and has been at her current school for two years. Her love for children and desire to do what’s best to meet their needs drives her to acclimate to her surroundings and engage in learning about diverse cultures. She’s the adviser for her school’s National History Day team and the coordinator of her school’s Spelling Bee. Verona earned a Bachelor’s from the University of Miami and a Master’s in Early Childhood Education from Mercer University.
9th Grade ELA Teacher
Jenny Howe is a freshman English Language Arts teacher, Yearbook adviser, school-level mentor, and instructional coach at President Theodore Roosevelt High School in the Kaimuki-McKinley-Roosevelt Complex Area. She has also taught English Language Learners, newswriting, arts & communication core, digital media, and broadcast media. Jenny is a member of the Hawaii Scholastic Journalism Association and is the State Director for the Hawaii State Journalism Education Association. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English Language and Literature from the University of Washington and a Master of Arts in Teaching from the University of Southern California’s Rossier School of Education.
Piikea is a seventh grade English Language Arts teacher in the Nānākuli-Wai‘anae Complex.
She is a Kamehameha Schools Kapālama graduate from Waimānalo, Hawai’i, Piikea received her BA in English from Hawai‘i Pacific University and her MSEd from Johns Hopkins University. Piikea has taught eighth grade inclusion English Language Arts and currently teaches seventh grade AVID English Language Arts at Wai‘anae Intermediate School. During the summer, Piikea teaches P3 scholars through the PUEO program at Punahou School. She has previously served on the Makiki Neighborhood Board. Piikea’s work in education is fueled by her #WaianaeStrong students, her devoted family and her quest for educational equity in Hawai’i. Piikea is a Teach for America-Hawai’i alumna.
H.S. SPED Department Head
Sharon Kearney is the Special Education Department Head at Maui High School within the Baldwin/Kekaulike/Maui Complex where she oversees students in grades 9-12 for Diploma and up to age 22 for Certificate of Completion. Sharon has been at Maui High for 9 years. She has participated as a member of the MHS Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment team, as a MHS WASC Focus Group Leader, and as a WASC Visitation Team member. Extracurricular activities have included being a Special Education Advisor to the MHS Best Buddies Chapter. Sharon has degrees from both California Lutheran University and University of California, Santa Barbara
Clinton is a Special Education Teacher at Kaunakakai Elementary School on the island of Molokai with his wife and two children. He has 14 years of teaching experience and has taught a variety of grade levels from preschool to high school, both general and special education. He currently serves on the WASC (Western Association of Schools and Colleges), PBIS (Positive Behavior Intervention Support), as a team leader. He leads professional development on the topic of Mindful learning strategies in the classroom. Clinton received his bachelor in liberal arts at California State University Fullerton and his Masters and teaching degree at Chaminade University of Oahu. Clinton is very passionate about social/emotional learning and believes that It should be emphasized in schools. He currently implements Mindful Awareness strategies with his students as a way to nurture a rigorous learning environment. Clinton loves to travel the world and enjoy water activities such as surfing, paddling and fishing.
8th Grade Earth and Space Science Teacher
Elizabeth is an 8th grade earth and space science teacher at Kaimuki Middle School (Farrington-Kaiser-Kalani Complex) on the island of Oahu. She has been teaching for 6 years at Kaimuki Middle School, has served as the Science Department Head for the last 3 years, and serves as the school’s Science & Engineering Fair Coordinator. Elizabeth was born and raised on Oahu, attended intermediate and high school at Kamehameha Schools Kapalama Campus, earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Microbiology from the University of Oklahoma, a Master of Science degree in Molecular Biosciences and Bioengineering from the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, and a Post Baccalaureate Certificate in Secondary Education.
H.S. SPED Department Head
Ryan Mandado is the Special Education Department Head at James Campbell High School. He started his teaching career in 2015 through Teach for America where he taught English and Science in Special Education. He is passionate about working with other SpEducators in his complex area to improve student learning and ensure equity for students with special needs. Since 2013, Ryan has been an active member of the Kalihi-Palama Neighborhood Board and currently serves as the Chairman advocating for low-income communities. Ryan graduated from UH Mānoa with BAs in Mandarin Chinese and American Studies and a MSEd from Johns Hopkins University.
6th-8th Grade Digital Media and Yearbook Teacher
Kevin is a 25 year veteran teacher of the Hawaii Department of Education and has taught at his current school, Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School, since 2000 when it opened. He created CKTV Media Productions, a nationally recognized digital media program that has won many local, state, and national awards. Kevin has also taught the school’s yearbook class for the past 6 years and was Kauai’s Teacher of the Year in 2008.
Erin Mendelson has dedicated eleven years to honing her craft as a special education teacher in elementary and middle schools across Oahu. After graduating from Columbia University in New York City with a major in Eastern Religions, Erin discovered her love for teaching while working one-to-one in a classroom setting with students with autism. She earned a Masters of Arts in Communications and Leadership at Gonzaga University and is a candidate for National Board Certification as an Exceptional Needs Specialist in Early Childhood through Adulthood. Erin serves as a mentor teacher with the James Madison Legacy Project that increases the availability and effectiveness of civic instruction in schools.
Stephanie is a third grade teacher at Kapunahala Elementary School in Kaneohe. She has been a public school teacher for the past 16 years. Stephanie has received her Masters in Elementary Education with a Montesorri Emphasis from Chaminade University and a Masters in Social Work from the University of Hawai’i. She spent two years at the Sathya Sai School in Thailand studying the Education in Human Values program and teaching conversational English. She is the 2016 Hawai’i State Teacher of the Year. Her passion is teaching children how to develop good character and positive mindsets for learning and life.
7th Grade STEM Lab Teacher
Sarah Milianta-Laffin teaches 7th grade PLTW STEM Lab at Ilima Intermediate in Ewa Beach, Campbell/Kapolei Complex. Prior to teaching in Ewa Beach, she taught for 11 years in Houston, Texas. Her 2013 Fund for Teachers Fellowship kindled her passion for STEM education. Sarah is a DonorsChoose.org Ambassador, a Code.org and Project Lead the Way certified educator, and was nominated for GLSEN’S 2018 National Educator of the Year. She coaches Speech & Debate Club and Ilima’s Genders & Sexualities Alliance. Sarah graduated with a B.A. in Political Science from Indiana University.
Kindergarten SPED Teacher
Deborah Moon is a special education teacher at Nānāikapono Elementary in the Nānākuli-Wai’anae Complex. Over the last three years, she has had the opportunity to work with students from kindergarten through third grade in a resource setting. Debbie is also a Teach For America – Hawai’i alum and has spent the past year serving as the Elementary Content Specialist for TFA’s elementary teachers on Oahu. Debbie graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a Bachelor’s Degree in Visual Studies and Communication, and from Johns Hopkins University with a Master’s Degree in Educational Studies.
Preschool SPED Teacher
Deborah has been a preschool special education teacher at Kailua Elementary for 13 years. She has a passion for early childhood education that led her back to the University of Hawaii to gain a masters degree in Early Childhood Education. She wrote a proposal for her school to receive funding to start a publicly funded preschool program and was awarded funding and training to open up the classroom in the fall of the school year 2018-19. She was recently selected as Kailua Elementary School’s Teacher of the Year for 2017-18.
2nd Grade Teacher
Monica is an elementary school teacher in the Konawaena Complex on Big Island. Prior to teaching in South Kona, she taught in Chula Vista public schools for several years. Monica was a founding teacher in the opening of Camarena Elementary; she was a teacher-leader among her peers, and taught in both Spanish and English. Monica embraces leadership roles including being on an instructional leadership team, and teaching reading and writing professional development for teachers. She earned her BA and a Bilingual teaching credential from SDSU. Monica is TESOL certified with several years’ experience teaching students who are English language learners.
11th Grade ELA Teacher
Keil Oberlander graduated from Brown University with an honors degree in Ethnic Studies, began teaching at Kealakehe High on Hawai’i Island in 2015, and received an M.S. in Education from Johns Hopkins University in 2017. Keil began working at Wai’anae High on O’ahu from 2016 to today. In the upcoming year, he will teach 9th/10th AVID, and has experience teaching general and special education courses within social studies and English departments. Keil is also a basketball coach, an HSTA representative, a junior class co-advisor, Genders & Sexualities Alliance co-advisor, special education care coordinator, and Native Alliance Initiative Council Member.
Kristilyn earned National Board Certification in 2003 and currently mentors candidates by teaching online and summer support courses. Recently, she co-chaired to organize the first statewide Education Policy Summit. Additionally, Kristilyn has taught/directed English summer camps abroad and organized a Hawai’i homestay for international students. She was awarded a spot at STEM focused Mickelson Exxon-Mobil Teaching Academy and engaged in helping launch the K-12 PLTW engineering program in the Campbell-Kapolei complex. She also serves as a State Network Educator, SBA ambassador and on several state assessment item review committees. Kristilyn holds a Professional Diploma in Elementary Education and BA in Psychology from UH Manoa. Along with a year as the multi-track librarian, she has been enjoying educating fourth graders for the past two decades at Holomua Elementary.
H.S. Math Teacher
Daphne has spent 12 years as a math teacher at Pearl City High School. She serves as Department Chairperson, Academy Lead of International Business, and mentors for the Introduction to College Mathematics course. She is a PAEMST state finalist, Teach It Hawaii Outstanding Educator, and Life Changer of the Year Nominee. She earned a BA in Business Administration from Oregon State University, M.B.A from Hawaii Pacific University, and an M.Ed from University of Phoenix. Believing education is more than standards, Daphne is an active Charger alumni. She is the academic advisor for football, varsity soccer assistant coach, and graduation coordinator.
2nd Grade Teacher
Melissa Peck has been teaching for 3 years at ‘Ele ‘Ele Elementary school on the west side of Kaua’i. This year she participated in the Kaua’i Teacher Fellowship and presented at an island-wide principals’ meeting. Her passion for educating the whole child has taken her to San Diego to study Project Based Learning as well as Waikiki to observe Philosophy for Children. She is a part of a core group of teachers at her school working to implement these programs. She continues to challenge traditional teaching styles through inquiry-based strategies. Melissa earned her Bachelor’s in Elementary Education from Whitworth University.
Dawn has spent the past 16 years at her alma mater, Kaua’i High School moving from the Social Studies classroom to Student Activities Coordinator to her current position as an Academic Coach. Her efforts have focused on providing opportunities for all students to graduate ready for their next step through involvement in the AVID and Early College programs. Dawn completed the Na Kumu Alaka’i Teacher Leader Academy in 2016. She earned her BA in Secondary Education – Social Sciences from BYU-Hawai’i and her MEd in Curriculum & Instruction from the University of Phoenix.
Dana is a content curriculum coach at Waipahu Elementary School in the Waipahu-Pearl City Complex. She has been teaching for twelve years in Hawai’i’s DOE and is a National Board Certified Teacher in Early and Middle Childhood Literacy. Dana is the state coordinator of Ka Hui Heluhelu, a nonprofit state council board under the International Literacy Association. She has been a past president and a board member since 2011. She has her masters in Curriculum Studies with a focus in reading K-12 from the University of Hawai’i at Manoa and recently received her doctorate in Educational Leadership from the University of Southern California’s Rossier School of Education.
State Office Teacher
Bobby is currently a state office teacher at the Professional Development and Educational Research Institute within the Hawaii DOE’s Office of Human Resources where he provides technology support for the state’s leadership academies, helps coordinate the Leadership Symposium, and coaches teacher leaders. Previously, he has taught middle and high school mathematics, computer programming, robotics, and electronics, as well as served as a complex area and state resource teacher. Bobby earned his Bachelor of Science in Engineering from the Colorado School of Mines and teaching credentials at the University of Denver.
Hawai’i State Teacher Fellows have worked to build strong relationships and partnerships with key stakeholders including the HIDOE, BOE, and HSTA. Teacher Fellows have regularly engaged in advisory conversations with the Superintendent/Deputy Superintendent and state legislators.
Data collection through focus groups and surveys have provided valuable and relevant teacher insights and perspectives for policymakers on critical education policies including the implementation of Hawai’i’s Common Core Standards, NGSS, and Career Readiness.
The writings of Teacher Fellows have been published in the media at both the state and national level including Honolulu Civil Beat, Star-Advertiser, and Ed Week. Teacher Fellows have planned and hosted two statewide ECET2 (Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teachers and Teaching) conferences. The convenings are now being scaled into Complex Areas to celebrate and build teacher leadership. Last spring, a local fellowship program for the Kauai Complex Area was launched and are being led by State Teacher Fellow alumni.
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