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Ho‘omaika‘i to the KS Kapālama elementary teachers who earned Master of Education degrees in curriculum studies as part of UH’s inaugural Aloha ʻĀina cohort. They are (l-r): Mahealani Alvarez, Mary Pittman, Michele-Anguay-Sagon, Susan Sakamoto, Mara Bacon Chang, Kristy Sherrer and Leah Nelson.

KS kumu earn M.Ed. degrees as part of UHʻs inaugural Aloha 'Āina cohort

Sept. 23, 2016

Contributed by Pakalani Bello

Seven Kamehameha Schools Kapālama elementary teachers recently earned Master of Education degrees in curriculum studies as part of the inaugural Aloha ʻĀina Cohort at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa College of Education.

The two-year program is run by UH’s Aloha Kumu, a hui of educators committed to providing meaningful and relevant professional development opportunities for teachers.

The cohort was developed as part of KS’ Hawaiian Culture-Based Education (HCBE) framework. Within the HCBE framework, “ʻO Hawaiʻi kuʻu kulāiwi: Devotion to our Native homeland, Hawaiʻi,” was called on to express acts of aloha ʻāina (Hawaiian patriotism) and engage learners of all ages in social, cultural and political experiences that foster love for and a life-long allegiance to the Pae ʻĀina o Hawaiʻi and Lāhui Hawaiʻi.

“We have to stop being scared of not knowing all the answers,” said sixth-grade teacher Leah Nelson, a member of the cohort. “We have to stop using the excuse that we’re not cultural practitioners so we cannot. The Hawaiian word for teaching and learning is the same, aʻo. A‘o aku, a‘o mai (one gives knowledge and receives knowledge). I am committed to a life of research and lifelong learning.” 

The seven teachers, Mary Pittman (kindergarten), Mahealani Alvarez (second grade), Michele Anguay Sagon (third grade), Susan Sakamoto (fourth grade), Mara Bacon Chang and Kristy Sharrer (fifth grade) and Nelson (sixth grade), represented most of the elementary grade levels. They engaged in different classes and experiences to help them deepen their understanding and perspectives, write stories for the KSK fifth grade play, and to develop curriculum aligned to aloha ʻāina.

The cohort focused on aloha ʻāina as a foundation for relationships, education, leadership, well-being and research. Participating educators engaged with aloha ʻāina in various contexts to help them better understand, articulate, and respond to their kuleana to the Lāhui.

“I want to acknowledge the mana wahine in our cohort and our fearless leader [Aloha Kumu Program Director] Dr. Kimo Cashman,” Nelson added. “We’ve laughed, cried, complained, disagreed, supported, guided, encouraged, and celebrated with each other throughout this process. This is the key to how we’re going to hold each other accountable. The good work doesn’t stop here. We survived the program but now it’s about survivance – a native sense of presence and the will to resist dominance. I mua!” 

The HCBE Framework states that KS is an organization in which all leaders, staff, students and families are committed to educational excellence and high levels of achievement through distinguished teaching a rigorous learning which lead to world class educational outcomes, and the renewed vibrancy of Hawai‘i's indigenous people and their lifelong success in the 21st century. Within 25 years, KS envisions a thriving lāhui in which learners achieve postsecondary educational success that enables good life and career choices, and positions them to lead and contribute to their communities, both locally and globally.

Future Aloha ʻĀina cohorts are being tentatively offered in the fall, spring and summer semesters through the Spring of 2018. For more information, and applications, visit

SP2020 is a five-year strategic plan that will guide Kamehameha Schools from 2015 to 2020. The plan marks a starting point toward Vision 2040, which envisions success for all Native Hawaiian learners.

This Aloha ʻĀina cohort relates to SP2020 Goal 1 – Network of Native Hawaiian Schools, and Action 1 of KS’ Ten Actions for FY 16-17.

The cohort traveled to Waipā, on the island of Kauaʻi, as part of the program.

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