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KS Hawaiʻi Poʻo Kula Kāhealani Naeʻole-Wong, KS Maui Poʻo Kula Dr. Scott Parker, KS Preschools Poʻo Kula Shelli Kim and Human Resources Managing Director Winona White spoke on a panel at the National Association of Independent Schools' People of Color Conference moderated by Senior Consultant Carrie Shoda-Sutherland.

Kamehameha Schools’ panelists champion equitable education at national conference

Feb. 12, 2024

Kamehameha Schools leadership and staff delivered a pair of high-profile panel discussions at this year’s People of Color Conference in Saint Louis, Missouri. The annual event hosted by the National Association of Independent Schools brings together educators, students and leaders from around the country to learn more about and support each other in pursuing equity and justice in education systems. More than 8,000 attendees enjoyed keynote speakers, workshops, affinity groups and networking opportunities.

One of the panels presented by Kamehameha Schools addressed equity in education, and the other highlighted successful KS initiatives that could serve as a model for independent schools across the continent.

Aolani Kailihou, an ‘ōiwi research and design senior consultant at KS Hawaiʻi, presented a session on power dynamics in school systems and how her campus perpetuates Hawaiian culture-based education. Having previously attended PoCC in 2022, she knew it would be a unique space to share ongoing efforts that challenge outdated ways of teaching. The thought-provoking presentation was interspersed with engaging conversations among attendees talking about colonialism’s influence on their institutions.

Aolani Kailihou talks about Kamehameha Schools' founding at the People of Color Conference in St. Louis, Missouri.

Kailihou’s talk was well-received as evidenced by feedback from a team of instructors who teach Hawaiian history within their U.S. History curriculum. The group shared they were grateful to learn more about the history of Hawaiʻi and recognized the challenges in accessing such information and perspectives.

“This highlighted the pressing need for not only more quality resources but also for Hawaiians to actively contribute to and lead discussions at conferences of this nature in the future,” Kailihou said.

The premiere panel “Kaʻaikuahiwi: Nourishing Kumu Growth” featured KS Maui Poʻo Kula Dr. Scott Parker, KS Hawaiʻi Poʻo Kula Kāhealani Naeʻole-Wong, KS Preschools Poʻo Kula Shelli Kim and Human Resources Managing Director Winona White.

Moderated by Senior Consultant Carrie Shoda-Sutherland, the group highlighted the major victories of Kaʻaikuahiwi, a personalized professional development and leadership strategy for KS E Ola! educators rooted in Hawaiian culture-based education. Designed by teachers for teachers, Kaʻaikuahiwi allows instructors to create their own educational pathways via an online portal. 

“Kumu voice, empowerment and engagement are key to the design of the Kaʻaikuahiwi kumu experience. Creating time and space for kumu to discover and grow in their own E Ola! journeys - to become inspired, themselves, mirrors the path and experience we desire for every keiki,” White said.

To Kim, this program is the first step in establishing a system that cultivates E Ola! educators. E Ola! is a framework designed to inspire learners who are nurtured in world-class Hawaiian culture-based education, grounded in their Hawaiian identity and contribute to their communities as ʻōiwi leaders. 

“It starts with learners forming personal connections and engaging in transformative experiences that ultimately transfer into E Ola! teaching and learning practices in the classroom that will nurture the growth of future ʻōiwi leaders,” Kim said.

Sharing this initiative with independent schools across the country, Parker emphasized KS’ contribution to larger conversations about teacher development and creating equitable learning environments for all.

“The approach we are taking with Kaʻaikuahiwi and the model we are establishing will speak to the important investment needed in kumu here and across the world,” Parker said.

“Kaʻaikuahiwi demonstrates that teachers can and will design their own pathways that provide dynamic, and in our case, Hawaiian culture-based learning that results in competencies growing our haumāna and readying them for the ʻōiwi leadership we seek for our lāhui.”

Parker, a NAIS trustee, believes KS' presence at PoCC was crucial to showcase both the tremendous work being done on our campuses and our commitment to the welfare of Native Hawaiians.

Among the crowd were teachers from across the continent who asked for advice on implementing something like Kaʻaikuahiwi into their own schools. Specifically, they wondered how to meet the unique needs of each teacher and if programs like these could eliminate systemically oppressive teaching and learning practices.

The engaged response indicated the panel succeeded in encouraging educators to create a more inclusive and culturally empowering environment for their haumāna.

For Naeʻole-Wong, PoCC's biggest benefit was being able to work with others who are equally enthusiastic and collaborative about reclaiming education spaces. Having met a head of school from the Virgin Islands who shared her commitment to large-scale system change, Naeʻole-Wong left the conference feeling energized about the work KS is doing and the opportunities ahead.

“The conference not only afforded us a platform to contribute insights and actively participate in the discourse of equity education but also positioned Kamehameha Schools as a dynamic participant—a role we are committed to maintaining in the future,” Naeʻole-Wong said.

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