Kauluwela Elementary School Principal Sonja Samsonas, Monica Smith, and Kalihi-Waena Elementary School Principal Daniel Larkin
Sonja Samsonas, Monica Smith, and Daniel Larkin

Dr. Monica Smith, of the UH Mānoa College of Education (COE) School of Teacher Education, received a $50,000 grant from the Spencer Foundation for her project, Collaborative Inquiry-Informed Culturally-Responsive Teaching for Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander Elementary Students.

Smith is a qualitative researcher and an associate professor of multilingual learning. This project supports her Professional Development Schools by funding inquiry-informed classroom practices of mentor teachers and teacher candidates as they collaborate to promote the academic experiences of marginalized elementary students in the Kalihi area.

“Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander students face educational inequities in Hawaiʻi’s public schools,” Smith said. “Action research and culturally-responsive pedagogy are frameworks that have the potential to improve teacher efficacy in working with culturally and linguistically diverse youth.”

Smith’s research incorporates mentor teachers and UH Mānoa teacher candidates as “agents of change” in the classroom. Together, they will discuss classroom instruction in communities of practice that center on culturally-responsive teaching for Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islanders, leading to better academic experiences and outcomes. The project will also strengthen the COE’s relationships with Kalihi area schools while supporting their strategic initiatives.

“My impact capacity as a Hawaiʻi teacher educator depends on the strength of my school-university partnerships and the relationships I have with school stakeholders,” Smith said. “Receiving a Spencer Education Grant is the culmination of ongoing collaborative partnerships with strong HIDOE school leaders, like Kauluwela Elementary School Principal Sonja Samsonas and Kalihi-Waena Elementary School Principal Daniel Larkin.”


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