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Dr. Lehua Veincent, Joel Truesdell, and Maddie Fennell pose for a photo following the induction announement.

Joel Truesdell Named to Class of 2024 for the National Teachers Hall of Fame

April 8, 2024

A chemistry teacher who taught at Kamehameha Schools, both at the Kapālama and Hawaiʻi campuses for 34 years, is one of only five teachers across the United States to be named to the National Teachers Hall of fame as a member of the Class of 2024.

Joel Truesdell learned of the honor during a surprise announcement Friday afternoon (April 5) at Kamehameha Schools Hawaiʻi.  

Bringing the retired educator back to Hawaii High School took a bit of subterfuge.

Working in collaboration with Truesdell’s wife Elizabeth, a long-time English teacher at Kamehameha Schools herself, the school’s principal, Dr. Lehua Veincent, had arranged a meeting for recent retirees to meet and talk with former students of theirs who had now become teachers at the Hawaiʻi campus.

Truesdell didn’t plan to be a high school teacher. He was a research chemist with two degrees from the University of Miami — a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and a master’s degree in organic chemistry — when he landed in Hawaii to study for a Ph.D. in synthetic organic chemistry at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. He was working on his dissertation in 1987.

“To help support myself,” Truesdell wrote, “I took a substitute teacher position at the Kamehameha Schools in Honolulu. Before long, I realized that I absolutely loved being a high school teacher much more than being a research scientist.”

Both Truesdell and those who know him attribute much of his success to his embrace of native culture and using it as structure in his classroom as well as in his curriculum.

Wrote Dr. Michael J. Chun, former president of The Kamehameha School, a private school system, “As a recent arrival from the continent, Joel was one who embraced assimilation — however, this time into the host culture of these isolated islands in the Pacific. His interest in and commitment to the Hawaiian culture have been genuine and authentic.”

Truesdell taught in Kamehameha Schools from 1987 to 2021 before teaching his final year at Tuba City Middle School, a Bureau of Indian Education school in the Navajo Nation of Arizona.

Truesdell  is the second teacher from Hawaii inducted into the National Teachers Hall of Fame. He joins Jonathan Gillentine, who was inducted in 2017.

Founded in 1989 on the campus of Emporia State University in Emporia, Kansas, the National Teachers Hall of Fame has inducted five U.S. teachers each year since 1992. The qualifications for induction are:

  • At least 20 years of full-time pre-K-12 teaching experience.
  • May be retired or no longer teaching. 
  • Must hold/have held a valid teaching certificate/license from the state in which they are teaching or taught.
  • Bachelor’s Degree or higher.
  • Be living and able to attend the induction ceremonies in Washington D.C. in May and in Emporia, Kansas, in June. 
  • No self-nominations are allowed.

"The selection process is inherently challenging," shared Maddie Fennell, Acting Executive Director of NTHF. "Every year, we are astounded by the caliber of nominees we receive."

Fennell continued, "Joel's teaching philosophy embodies immersion, delving deep into the unique world of every student. Through a culture-based approach, he dismantles barriers to learning, fostering an inclusive environment.

“With a curriculum steeped in Hawaiian culture, Joel's numerous awards underscore his teaching excellence. His impact extends beyond the classroom, as he generously shares his successful strategies with colleagues locally and internationally, enriching educational practices worldwide."

The NTHF Class of 2024 will travel to Washington D.C., in early May for ceremonies there. They will travel to Emporia, Kansas, in June for four days of events before the formal induction ceremony on June 21 at Emporia State University.

See coverage from Mr. Truesdell's induction announcement as highlighed on Hawaii News Now

Watch Mr. Truesdell's nomination video for this award, featuring a number of former colleagues and students - 


Truesdell was joined by a number of friends, former colleagues, and loved ones at his surprise announcement.

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