BEd in Early Childhood Education, MEd in Curriculum & Instruction, and COEAA Board Member
“Get to know your students and let them know how important they are as a member of your classroom community. After all, to make a connection with the mind, you first have to make a connection with the heart.”
Whitmore Village, Oʽahu, HI (at the time, it was a pineapple plantation village)
Curriculum Studies; Institute for Teacher Education - Elementary
- BEd, Elementary Education
COEAA Spotlight on Jan Iwase by Kayla Ueshiro
Jan Iwase is a teacher at heart, a leader, and an author who continues to lead with aloha through her generous and heartwarming book donations made to the 2022 Institute for Teacher Education Elementary graduating student teachers and faculty.
What is your education background?
I attended Leilehua High School. After graduating, I went to the University of Hawaiʽi at Mānoa with a goal of becoming a teacher. I graduated with a BEd with a specialty in early childhood education. After teaching with the Head Start program for fifteen years, I decided to go back to get my master’s degree. After attending classes after work and during the summer, I earned my MEd in Curriculum & Instruction focusing on children’s literature. I also attended classes at UHM to be certified as a school administrator.
Who or what inspired you to become a teacher?
Like most of my peers in our community, I did not attend preschool. So kindergarten was my first school experience, and I loved school, and I loved my teacher! I decided that being a teacher was the best possible job, and that was my goal throughout my entire school experience. I chose to focus on early childhood education because I wanted to give students a positive experience and strong foundation that would hopefully carry them through the rest of their school years.
Who or what inspired you to share your story and become an author?
I started blogging about our school’s journey back in 2012, and today, I continue to share reflections, opinions, and learnings via this blog. I truly believe that I would not have had the courage to write a book without that blogging experience. When I retired in 2018, I knew that I needed to do something productive with my free time. Our middle son, Jarand, had unexpectedly passed away just prior to my retirement, and I needed to fill the void in my life. So I decided to write a book. It was a challenge, but I did it! The result was my first book, Leading with Aloha: From the Pineapple Fields to the Principal’s Office. It is part autobiographical and shares how my life growing up in our plantation village influenced me as an educator and school leader.
Could you please share a brief synopsis of your book, Educating with Aloha?
When COVID hit in 2019, I was concerned about its impact on our students, teachers, families, and school communities. I felt this was a perfect time to discuss how to make schools more relevant in this, the 21st century. When I wrote this book, I hoped to encourage conversations and discussions about education issues. I read through all of my blog posts and selected the ones which I felt were most relevant. I added reflections to share the context of each blog, sorted them into chapters by content, and added reflective questions at the end of each chapter. It is my hope that this book can be used as a tool for discussing issues such as school culture, relationships, curriculum, and working with parents and the community.
With such beautiful anecdotes from your experience as an educator of 45 years and strong passion for education, how do you feel we can continue to change the way teachers teach and children learn?
Our world is changing at a rapid pace, but our educational systems have been slow to change. If anything, the pandemic showed us that change IS possible. Look at how quickly teachers learned how to teach remotely and how they learned new tech tools to engage their students. Schools also realized the importance of social-emotional learning and building positive relationships within their classrooms. It is easy to look at test scores and focus on learning loss, but many students and teachers were able to thrive despite the pandemic. I saw evidence that included community partnerships, innovative ideas to teach content and to have students share their learning, and collaboration amongst teachers not just at their school but through professional learning networks via social media. It is an exciting time to be an educator!
By donating these books to our future educators, what is one piece of advice you would like to share with our graduating class?
The advice I would give to a first-year teacher is to focus on relationships and building community in your classroom. Get to know your students and let them know how important they are as a member of your classroom community. After all, to make a connection with the mind, you first have to make a connection with the heart. I would also encourage teachers to build their professional learning network and to be willing to learn with and from other educators.
What are your future vision and goals as an author or educational leader?
I will continue to keep informed about educational issues, and I intend to keep blogging. Additionally, as a board member of the UHM College of Education Alumni Association, I hope to encourage more opportunities for our members to get involved and to provide support for teachers.
What are three fun facts?
1. My first job (besides babysitting) was working in the pineapple fields.
2. I’ve been married to my husband Randy for 45 years.
3. My favorite place to visit is Las Vegas, primarily because our oldest son and two grandsons live there. Maybe one day, I’ll hit a big jackpot!
For more information on Education with Aloha: Reflections from the Heart on Teaching and Learning, please visit https://bookshawaii.net/products/educating-with-aloha.