Doctorate in Education in Professional Educational Practice (EdD)
“My drive to become an educator is to provide access to learning experiences that will cultivate future leaders of Hawaiʻi. I want students, no matter their racial background and zip code, to have access to high quality learning experiences.”
- EdD, Professional Education Practice
COEAA Spotlight on Ryan Mandado
I was born and raised in Kalihi to a low-income Filipino immigrant family. I attended Kalihi-Uka Elementary School and Kalākaua Middle School, and I am a proud graduate of Farrington High School. Growing up in the vastly diverse and unique Kalihi taught me about the shared brilliance of community diversity and the need for service towards others. I learned about the importance of helping one another and recognizing change. Kalihi is a community filled with stories of resilience, improvement, change, and hope.
Road to College
My experiences with drugs and visiting China fueled my passion to become an educator. One of the pivotal moments of my life was when my house was raided for drugs. It was the largest drug bust in the state of Hawaiʻi at that time. I was doing my summer school homework in the backyard when I heard my front gates burst open loudly. The SWAT team came running into my house yelling, “get on the floor” with bazooka-like firearms pointed at my face. You never forget violent moments like this in your life. When I was 15, I knew things were happening at home, but I never questioned it. I was fortunate to know that my family provided a roof over my head, and I am not going to fault my parents and/or family members for keeping secrets from me. From this moment, I knew I wanted to change my community. I joined a group of youth leaders and formed an organization called Kalihi Community Youth Leaders. In partnership with the Hawaiʻi Meth Project, we conducted presentations and youth advocacy programs that talked about the dangers of crystal meth in our communities. Based on this experience, I became passionate about youth organization and leadership. I learned that kids listen to other kids. It is important to provide access to high quality leadership development for students to advocate for their friends, families, and communities.
Secondly, my experience traveling abroad in high school exposed the deep inequities in public education. I was fortunate to receive a scholarship to travel with Punahou’s Wo International Center to rural China. While it was an amazing experience, I learned about the inequities that presented itself going with a group of students who had access to study abroad experiences in high school. It was my first time getting a passport, first time traveling, and first time being exposed to learning opportunities that deeply talked about another country, language, and culture. I remember coming back from the trip inspired but also angry. I asked myself, “why is it that a school seven miles down the road from Farrington has access to all these learning experiences?” I remember coming back from the trip wanting to advocate for students in my community. I learned that the difference between private school students versus public school students in Hawaiʻi is access.
My drive to become an educator is to provide access to learning experiences that will cultivate future leaders of Hawaiʻi. I want students, no matter their racial background and zip code, to have access to high quality learning experiences.
Bachelor of Arts in Chinese Language & Literature from UH Mānoa (2015)
Honors Bachelor of Arts in American Studies from UH Mānoa (Thesis Title: Learning & Teaching Historical Complexity in Hawai‘i) (2015)
Master of Science in Education from Johns Hopkins University (2017)
Doctor of Education from UH Mānoa (2023)
I conducted a qualitative dynamic narrative inquiry research study investigating ecological approaches towards agentic school environments. I interviewed teachers at DreamHouse ‘Ewa Beach Public Charter School and asked them questions of how they felt, fostered, and furthered agency in education. Using their responses, I developed themes for school leaders who are committed to creating agentic environments for teachers. Through this research study, I have discovered that teachers experience agency when they commit to reimagining education, look at themselves as transformational leaders, and trust others to lead. To accomplish these aspects of agency, school leaders must create vulnerable spaces for their teachers, persist and navigate their teams through rapid changes, and trust their teachers to make change. I also began to understand the intentional power and potential of designing for agency and how to persist against systems that are meant to be transformed.
History as an Educator
I started my teaching journey as a SPEDucator at Campbell High School in ‘Ewa Beach. I taught resource science and learned very quickly the importance of shifting my pedagogical practices towards authentic project and place-based approaches to sustain student engagement and joy in the classroom. I taught a very large resource classroom of 24 students with a wide range of learning differences. I knew from the start that traditional pedagogical practices were not good enough to reach all students, which challenged me to learn quickly that project and place-based learning strengthens student relationships and relationships with adults as well.
I moved into a mid-level leadership role as the Department Head of Special Education coaching and mentoring over SPEDucators servicing 300+ students with special needs. It was the largest special education department in the state. At night, I also taught at the Waipahu Community School for adults in their competency-based program.
In 2019, I left Campbell and joined a great team of education innovators and co-founded Hawaiʻi’s newest charter school, DreamHouse ‘Ewa Beach. As the founding Chief Academic Officer, I was responsible for implementing and coaching our teachers to ensure our leadership and identity-based programming was available to all students. I am the current CEO of DreamHouse and we are entering year five.
I am also an Adjunct Professor at Hawaiʻi Pacific University and have been teaching there for two years now. I mainly teach Culturally Responsive Teaching and other education leadership courses.
DreamHouse Hawaiʻi Chief Academic Officer
DreamHouse as an idea started in 2012 when a group of educators from ‘Ewa came together and asked, “What would it be like to start our own school?” After years of community conversations, two big themes came up from community members: wanting kids to be leaders of Hawaiʻi and wanting kids to love who they are. Based on those conversations, the mission of empowering future leaders of our island communities came to be. DreamHouse is committed to high quality leadership and identity development for all students. In 2019, DreamHouse opened its doors to 100 6th grade students above the Buffalo Wild Wings in ‘Ewa Beach. We are currently in year five with grades 6–10, with the capacity for 500 students and families, 40+ teachers, and operating at three different learning sites before the DreamHouse Center is built in 2024.
I was the youngest Neighborhood Board chair for five years representing Kalihi-Palama. Community service is very important to me because of my belief that poverty is a policy decision. If we provide spaces and opportunities for community members to ask questions about their lived situations, we can come together and come up with amazing solutions to take care of people, the land, and other things that make our communities thriving and safe. More importantly, community service provides spaces of belonging. To make people feel like they belong, they need to have a voice at the table, agree on things, and even be given an opportunity to dissent. This is civic engagement the way it should be. While on the board, I dealt with many pressing issues affecting our community such as: illegal gambling rooms, youth gang violence, and the rail project. I became chair of my board at 19. I encourage young people to join their boards. Listen, learn, and share your thoughts about what truly can make a community thrive.
Three Fun Facts
1. I love bitter melon!
2. I love watching re-runs of tennis matches on Youtube!
3. I take public transit to work every day from town to Kapolei.