BEd in Exceptional Students and Elementary Education

Shelby Hom

“… my project documents how place-based lessons weave into multiple academic subjects while aligning with a school’s curriculum as a means to foster a sense of place in young students.”


Mililani, HI


School of Teacher Education - Elementary; Special Education

Related Degrees

  • BEd, Exceptional Students & Elementary Education

How did you become interested in the field of education? The ESEE Program?
When I first entered UH Mānoa, I was majoring in computer science. Since the classes were asynchronous or delivered through Zoom, it was difficult to maintain the motivation to complete the required STEM classes for my major. I was falling behind, and it made me unsure whether I could finish my degree. At the same time, I was working at Mānoa Japanese Language School, an afterschool care program for elementary students. While I dreaded going to class, I was excited to go to work and see the students. I enjoyed teaching them origami. This made me realize how rewarding it is to work with children, so I decided to change my major to elementary education.

Do you work or participate in any clubs or organizations in or outside of school?
I volunteer with the Friends of the Library of Hawai’i at their Ward Village bookstore. The books are donated by the community or withdrawn from the public libraries. All of the profits go toward supporting the Hawaiʻi public library system.

How has the COE program impacted or benefited your career path?
I am so grateful for the professors, cohort peers, and mentor teachers I have had the opportunity to learn from. It was due to their expertise that I was able to build my confidence and capabilities as an educator. I appreciate the feedback and support I received to grow outside my comfort zone. I am also thankful for all the students I have been able to connect with throughout my time as a student teacher. Seeing their progress over time has been extremely rewarding, and they made every part of this rigorous program worth it.

Is there anyone in particular who inspired you to pursue a career in education?
The primary person who inspired me to pursue a career in education was my longtime friend and coworker at Mānoa Japanese Language School. She knew she wanted to be a teacher from a young age, so she told me she was planning to apply to the College of Education. Since I realized that I enjoyed working with children, she and I decided to apply for the same BEd program together. Although she was not able to complete the program due to personal reasons, I am forever grateful for her encouraging me to pursue a teaching career.

Your project “Cultivating a Sense of Place Among Students in Hawaiʻi” won an Honors Prize from the Honors Council. Can you provide a brief synopsis of this project?
My project aimed to explore how place-based learning can be implemented in Hawaiʻi public schools. Place-based learning is an instructional approach that integrates the community and environment into teaching academic subjects. My goal was to create a unit of place-based lessons for first-grade students at Hahaʻione Elementary School that focused on living things in Hawaiʻi. The lessons incorporated hands-on learning experiences where students observe and interact with their environment. Overall, my project documents how place-based lessons weave into multiple academic subjects while aligning with a school’s curriculum as a means to foster a sense of place in young students. Educators may use this project as a model for planning place-based lessons designed for their school’s geographical area.

What are your post-graduation plans?
I will be a first-grade teacher at Honowai Elementary. I plan to continue teaching in the public school system.

Anything else you would like to include?
I would like to thank my family for their support and encouragement. They are the first people I turn to when things are difficult. I hope to continue making them proud.

In a letter from the Director of University Honors Shana J. Brown, PhD…

“Your project ‘Cultivating a Sense of Place Among Students in Hawaiʻi’ garnered raves from the Honors Council. Echoing the strongly positive assessment by your faculty mentors, Honors Council readers praised your explorations of place-based models and expressed that your contributions could be highly impactful and positive for elementary education. The level of excellence and potential impact in your project is outstanding, making it some of the best work at UH Mānoa at any level.”

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