Graduate ECE Programs Director
"I am trying to uncover what it means to embody an approach to teacher education that is rooted in this place, my home."
Pearl City, HI
- MEd, Curriculum Studies: PK-3 School Level
What drew you to the early childhood education field?
Like many early childhood educators, I stumbled into this field by accident. I tried on several careers as an undergraduate and was just about to leave the COE when Dr. Doris Ching, the dean of students at the time, told me there was a place in education for me and that I should go and talk to Dr. Stephanie Feeney. Stephanie spoke to me about an approach that focused on nurturing the whole child, learning through play, and facilitating learning experiences embedded in meaningful relationships, interactions, and conversations. This “hummed” for me and I have been in the field ever since.
Why is this such an important subject area?
Early childhood education encompasses the first eight years of a child’s life. What happens during this period lays a foundation for a childʻs future livelihood, family, career, and educational success. The quality of each child’s experiences and interactions, whether in a center- based program, family-child interactive learning program, or in the care of a beloved family member have long lasting consequences.
What is your philosophy of teaching?
It has evolved over time, and I am reconceptualizing what this means every day. I have always tried to embody the relationship-based approach that I experienced. However, more and more, I am trying to uncover what it means to embody an approach to teacher education that is rooted in this place, my home. I find myself valuing the use of mo’olelo or talk story and informal dialogue as an important pedagogy. I try to take the time to listen to the story of each person who walks in my door in search of an early childhood degree and each practitioner in my classroom. When we engage in conversations, I try to hold up a mirror so that students can reflect on the gifts they bring, identify the contributions they can make, and contextualize personal experiences within a deeper understanding of the theory base and current events in our field. I hope that I am able to meaningfully weave a deep knowledge of the field and love for learning through our experiences together so that each student sees him/herself as a part of a micro-community of learners that is nested in and interconnected with our broader community.
MEd ECE* Cohort IV Students & Faculty
What are your hopes for the future of your students? The field?
While I hope that our graduates will leave with the knowledge, skills, and heart needed to have a positive impact on the lives of young children and their families, I also hope that they are able to find a place where they feel they can contribute and are valued. Practitioners thrive when they can find supportive workplaces that value their contributions.
As for the field, I hope one day the investment catches up with what we know children need in order to flourish. We have a research base that validates the importance of investing in quality early learning experiences, particularly for our most vulnerable children. The field unfortunately still lacks professional recognition, and there continues to be a lack of economic parity for people who want to devote their life to becoming an early childhood educator. I hope we reach the point where as a State, we invest in primary prevention programs that address the needs of our youngest children and their families rather than continuing to pick-up the pieces later on.
What are you future plans/goals in the field?
My immediate plan is to support the current group of MEd ECE* Cohort IV students through to graduation and to successfully recruit for a Cohort V. I hope to see broad based representation statewide that is representative of the diversity of programs and practitioners in our field. We also have a group of Curriculum Studies (PK-3) MEd students that is near and dear to me as well, and I intend to celebrate their program completion in two years.
Personally, I want to continue working on a doctorate and continue reflecting on how we can strengthen the sense of place in our programs and look at how our programs can be more interwoven into partnerships with the broader community. There is great need for systemic change to improve the educational pathways and supports for non-traditional students, so I have devoted some time to learning more about the broader community and working with partners to improve our higher education infrastructure. I am particularly concerned about increasing the number of students from underrepresented ethnic groups such as Native Hawaiian, Filipino, and Pacific Islanders because these voices are essential if we are to create an early childhood higher education system that reflects the communities and programs where they work. Finally, I hope to continue to develop my voice as an advocate for children, families, and practitioners in the public policy arena and hope to encourage my students to do the same.
*The Master of Education in Early Childhood Education Program (MEd ECE) is an interdisciplinary graduate leadership program offered by the College of Education and the College of Tropical Agriculture & Human Resources. The program meets the need for a variety of leaders in the field of early childhood education and care. MEd ECE graduates have attributed new jobs or roles within their current organizations to the completion of this program, and many have gone on to provide leadership in the areas of teaching; research; and program management, policy, and advocacy. This 30-credit program is designed to be completed in less than three years through a combination of three-week summer sessions over three summers and a variety of online, hybrid, and condensed format on-campus classes. The MEd ECE program is currently recruiting for Cohort V, which begins Summer 2015.