Jarena and Mark Pacarro
MEd in Curriculum Studies Alumni (Aloha ʻĀina Cohort)
“We are a family of educators who know that learning is a lifelong journey of aloha ʻāina!”
- MEd, Curriculum Studies: Aloha Aina Education & Leadership
Where do you work?
Jarena – I currently work at Honolulu Community College Hulili Ke Kukui Hawaiian Center for a Title III grant called Kūkalahale. I started there in 2017 as a student assistant right after I had retired from Kamehameha Schools to finish up my last two semesters of my BA in Hawaiian Studies. While at Kamehameha Schools, I held various positions throughout my 28-year tenure. Naturally, when Hulili Ke Kukui, Hoʻāla Houʻs culture and place-based education program, started, I jumped on board to promote aloha ʻāina professional learning for Honolulu Community College in collaboration with Kapi‘olani Community College.
Mark – I have been working at Kamehameha Schools for the past seven years where I teach Hawaiian language.
Jacob (Jarena and Mark’s son who was not interviewed) – Jacob is a vice principal at the Kamehameha Schools Kapālama High School. He is also an Aloha ʻĀina alumnus.
How did you become interested in the field of education?
Jarena – I love learning and have always been drawn to organizations where growth and education are the vehicle to strengthen the Hawaiian community. I have had work experience with Alu Like, Liliʻuokalani Trust, and the Kamehameha Schools prior to Honolulu Community College. My grandmother was a public school teacher, my dad was the only child out of his 10 siblings who even went to college for a bit, and I am the only one of my four siblings to complete a college degree. My parents said that education was the most important thing. They sacrificed for all of their five children to attend private schools. In my personal journey, my higher educational journey had to wait until I raised my children.
Mark – I enjoyed coaching, which led to me becoming a teacher.
How did you become interested in the Aloha ʻĀina Education and Leadership* program?
Jarena – It was our son Jacob who was in the program first. He was a math teacher at Kamehameha Schools and enrolled in the cohort. As he was going through the program, he noticed that what he was learning is what I had been telling him about the work that I was doing at KS with the HIDOE. Since I was working toward a long-desired bachelor’s, he said that the Kumu Aloha ʻĀina Program might a natural next step of the process. It turned out that the planets were in alignment, and I ended my undergrad just in time for the beginning of cohort three. My husband is a teacher, and so we decided to do this together.
Mark – The program name did it for me as I am a proponent for Aloha ʻĀina and nā mea Hawaiʻi. My teaching field also led me to want to learn more about Hawaiian issues and history.
How has the COE program impacted or benefited your career path?
Jarena – As mentioned it was sort of a natural next step for me. The program not only confirmed many of the Hawaiian Culture-Based Education messages that I was relaying to the new teachers while at work at KS, but it opened my eyes to more experiences and connections to the work. The content was incredible, taught with such skills that can be adapted for any classroom or learning experience. Highlights of the program include instructors who live aloha ʻāina, cohort members who have become friends and colleagues in the work, huakaʻi (field trips) to places that I havenʻt been to before like Kahoʻolawe and Makaleha Ridge. This type of learning experience touched the nāʻau, the deepest part of me. Nāʻau experiences create change in a person’s perspective and values and don’t just fill my head with facts. All of these experiences have impacted the way I plan and facilitate professional learning within the context of my kūleana at HonCC.
Mark – This program and degree have given me the desire to share my knowledge of the issues Hawaiians are facing today and to enrich our haumana with the information that makes us who we are.
Is there anyone in particular who inspired you to pursue teaching as a career?
Jarena – My dad and grandmaʻs strong stand on the value of education was probably a seed. There were many who came along and watered this idea, teachers, kumu hula, friends, husband, and even my children. Yet, it was a big push from an amazing group of co-workers who became mentors that lit the fire for me. I mahalo Dr. Walter Kahumoku III and Dr. Teresa Makuakane-Drechsel and the amazing educators I worked with in Kauhale Kīhapaipai who stoked the flame for me to pursue the degrees.
Mark – My dad was school teacher for 40 years.
What are your future visions and goals?
Jarena – I envision children who are educated, solid, secure, and confident in who they are as children of Hawai‘i. I mean that in a broad sense, because whether you are Hawaiian by lineage or are living in Hawai‘I, you have a connection to this place. Therefore, I see teachers who teach here to have a fundamental understanding of Hawai‘iʻs history, its original people, values, beliefs, and traditions that are Hawai‘i. I see them using this “culture” as a vehicle to teaching their content whether it’s math, science, language arts, Japanese language etc. Everything can be connected in some way, shape, or form.
Mark – To further the Lāhui Hawaiʻi through language and historical knowledge.
*The MEd-CS Aloha ʻĀina Education and Leadership track is a 30-credit track for Aloha ʻĀina educators and leaders. The cohort focuses on Aloha ʻĀina (love for homeland, patriotism) as a foundation for relationships, education, leadership, well-being, and research in Hawaiʻi.