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Alumni reflect on the kumu who impacted them most

May 8, 2023

During National Teacher Appreciation Week, we are reminded of the immeasurable impact that kumu have on our lives. Our treasured educators play a pivotal role in shaping the minds of our haumāna and lāhui. Their dedication is deserving of both recognition and gratitude. And who better to honor them than alumni, who with the passing of time, have come to better understand the impact and sacrifice our kumu make?

Kaiani Kiaha KSM’15

“One of my kumu once wrote about me in a note paired with an award I received in high school. He wrote that if I spread my wings one day, I would soar. It unlocked a mindset for me that perhaps I’m carrying around untapped potential. It’s now become a sort of self-audit at different seasons of my life. I ask myself, ‘Am I being the Kaiani that’s spreading my wings? Am I stepping with courage to pursue what will make me soar? What’s preventing me from spreading my wings here?’ It’s a challenge that I carry every day to push myself beyond what I think I can do.” Kaiani Kiaha KSM’15

Rosemary Eberhardt KSK’62

Six decades have passed since Rosemary Eberhardt KSK’62 walked the halls of the girls’ school, but the memory of her nā kumu kūlia still endures. “There was more than one. Mr. Hyde and Mr. Barry, seventh and eighth grade respectively. They introduced fun in school. Miss Powers who was my homeroom advisor for four years at girls’ school and was my English teacher as well is the third one. She was strict and predictable. I did not know then, but know now, how structure can form discipline and application,” Eberhardt said.

ʻEleu Novikoff KSM’06

ʻEleu Novikoff KSM’06 now serves at the same campus that helped her flourish as a haumāna. She offered this tribute to her World History teacher Kevin O’Brien, who now is a colleague. “I am a great writer because of him. His tests are very unique where you have to answer specific essay questions. And through that I was able to learn about history but also become a better writer, He also exhibits strength. He's resilient. There are things that I've seen him overcome as a student as well as now a colleague. And I think his resilience is very admirable,” Novikoff said.

Kamuela Park KSM’14

Kamuela Park KSM’14 is also a haumāna-turned-kumu at the ʻAʻaʻpueo campus: “Kapulani Antonio was my teacher and she's now my boss. It’s funny how things come full circle, but in her class, when I was in school, she taught Hawaiian history for seniors. She focused on a lot of contemporary issues regarding our lāhui, the community and also politics which I felt was kind of critical for us as seniors. We were about to graduate and go into the real world so, it really left a big impression on me of realizing how important it is to be observant of what’s going on in the world around you,” Park said.

Michelle Kanoelehua Kamaliʻi-Ligsay KSK’00

Michelle Kanoelehua Kamaliʻi-Ligsay KSK’00 explains how two kumu with seemingly opposite perspectives helped broaden her horizons. “My favorite subjects were ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi and science, which most people would not think go together. But I had a science kumu that was very critical about my choices for the future. She wanted me to go away and go to an Ivy League school. She wanted me to go into some heavy-duty science and come back and hopefully give back through conservation here in Hawaiʻi. While my ʻōlelo kumu wanted me to stay home and learn more ʻōlelo and contribute to the lāhui in that way. But they were always making me think about how I'm going to give back when I was done,” Kamaliʻi-Ligsay said.

Kawai Kaili KSM’06

Kawai Kaili KSM’06 has an enduring connection to several kumu, and her own keiki do too. “I have several favorite kumu from my journey at KS Maui: Mister Lopez, Kumu Kapulani, Mister Mossman. They’re all just great teachers that inspired me to holomua. Some of our teachers, more than one actually have even named my kids, so that’s how influential they were to me. My favorite teachers were the ones that kept me accountable and called me out when I wasn’t doing my best,” Kalili said.

Kuʻehu Mauga KSH’11

Kuʻehu Mauga KSH’11 is a popular Hawaiʻi Island radio DJ with a passion for Hawaiian music. He says his choir and concert glee teacher Michael Springer helped shaped him both personally and professionally. “We’re Springer singers. He helped me find my inner voice—more than just the vocals, that inner confidence. Of course, you need to think before you speak, but then share your leo and your opinions, views and perspectives. Kumu serve as a foundation. They are vessels that really connect us to our kūpuna,” Mauga said.

Kymberlynn Burk KSM’10

Kymberlynn Burk KSM’10 shared this tribute to her ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi kumu Lōkahi Antonio: “He really opened my eyes as to what it means to be a Hawaiian. He also is a great storyteller. Kumu Antonio also helped prepare me for the future by instilling the importance of being a Hawaiian in today's society and also being a leader. It's not enough to be proud to be Hawaiian. You have to act on it,” Burk said.

Noah Harders KSM’12

Noah Harders KSM’12 is an up-and-coming artist whose works are now on display at the Honolulu Museum of Art. He says his creative passion started when he was just an ʻōpio. “My elementary art teacher Mrs. (Diane) Fell really started off my life as an artist and really propelled us into thinking deeper about art, even at such a young age—third grade. That really carried through middle school and high school and things just developed from there,” said Harders.

All these alumni bear witness to the fact that a kumu’s impact extends well beyond the classroom. So, during Teacher Appreciation Week, we encourage you to take the time to reach out and extend a warm mahalo to a kumu who helped shape who you are today.


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