BEd in Elementary Education Student and Faith C. Ai Memorial Scholarship Recipient
“I am able to do most of my class work asynchronously, on my own time, while being a mom.”
Institute for Teacher Education - Elementary
- BEd, Elementary Education
Where do you work?
Right now, I am running two businesses of my own, Victoria’s Sweets Hawaiʻi and Pūpūkea Print Shop. Victoriaʻs Sweets is a business I started a few years ago to create custom candy buffets and dessert tables, as well as customized party favors, for events. There is a lot of color and graphic design built into it; however, due to COVID-19, I have taken a step back from it. Pūpūkea Print Shop is a new business I started with my partner. We print customized apparel for our clients, and we have just started to launch our own clothing line. I also work part-time as a server at Rajanee Thai Haleiwa, and I moonlight as a vocalist as well.
How did you become interested in the field of education?
It took me a long time to figure out what I wanted to do in school because I loved everything I experienced. I found interest in a wide range of subjects, from ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi, philosophy, and horticulture, to mathematics, political science, and music. There are so many sides to me, and I found that the educational field was somewhere I could create a harmony between them all, bringing all my experiences and interests into the classroom.
Do you participate in any clubs or organizations in or outside of school? Describe your involvement.
For the past few years, my partner and I have been running a small, grass-roots youth program called Bike Polo Hawaiʻi. We teach kids (and adults) how to play bike polo, and in the process, build a team-like atmosphere for kids to be a part of. It is also intended to get them active and to stay out of trouble. I also normally volunteer with the Once A Month Church at their events, like operation toy box and operation backpack, and I occasionally write articles for the North Shore News. With the onset of COVID, however, some of these things have taken a pause.
What has your school year looked like amid COVID-19? How are you adapting?
The COE program Iʻm in is actually a hybrid distance program, which means that most of our classes were designated to be online anyway. That being said, as teacher candidates, we were supposed to be physically placed in elementary classrooms this year. Due to COVID, I was placed in a distance learning classroom where we met via Google Meets. It was interesting and different! It wasnʻt at all what I was expecting. I was still able to make real connections with my mentor teacher and the students in my class. I think the biggest hurdle was learning how to navigate presenting and actually teaching while online. For example, can you imagine trying to teach kids fractions through Zoom? With the guidance from my mentor teacher, my field supervisor, and my methods course professors, I’d say I learned and utilized a good number of valuable resources designated to engage students while online.
How has the COE program impacted or benefited your career path?
The COE program has benefited my career path immensely. Honestly, Iʻm not sure I would have a career path without it. I have two toddlers at home, ages three and four, and this hybrid program is the main reason I chose to go back to school after a short hiatus. I am able to do most of my class work asynchronously, on my own time, while being a mom; and next semester, my kids will be in preschool while Iʻm in my field placement classroom. It works for me, and I am forever thankful for my field supervisor, Rayna Fujii, for always being supportive and helping me stay on top of it all. I always wanted to return to school to finish my Bachelorʻs degree, but it didnʻt seem realistically plausible. This program redirected my spirit, my goals, my aspirations… and made them reality.
Is there anyone in particular who inspired you to pursue teaching as a career?
I come from a long line of carpenters, plumbers, and the occasional entertainer. No one in my family is an educator, but growing up I had a wonderful elementary school experience. I loved all of my teachers; they were family to me. There aren’t enough words to describe the kind of person my Sunset Beach Elementary School 6th grade teacher, Mrs. Pule, was, let alone the impact she had on her students. Another teacher who is dearly close to my heart was Mrs. Betsy. Both of these women, who are no longer with us, inspired me to become a teacher. When my younger brother asked me why I wanted to be a teacher, my instinctual reply was, “I want to be like Mrs. Pule,” and he immediately understood the weight of my reasoning.
What are your future visions and goals?
I see myself as a “forever learner,” and I hope to continue my educational journey as long as possible. It sounds corny, but I really do love to learn, even if I don’t love actual homework assignments (who does? lol). I see myself earning a master’s degree and maybe even one day a Doctorate in Education. My goals for the classroom are arts integration as much as possible, as well as all the subjects I previously mentioned. Kids should be exposed to a variety of learning experiences, and our local children should be able to make connections between what they are learning and who they are–especially here in Hawaiʻi where our vibrant culture has so much to offer our keiki–intellectually, emotionally, and physically. I have learned that sometimes the established curriculum our kids are learning doesn’t relate to them because it wasn’t made for them. I have learned so much from my mentors, and I see amazing teachers working their own ʻike (knowledge) into the grade level curriculum, making adaptations to fit their students’ needs and enriching their all-around learning experience. I strive to be like these educators.
What does it mean to you to be the recipient of the Faith C. Ai Memorial Scholarship?
Sitting at an oval conference room table, across from multiple established and extremely impressive professionals… to say I was “intimidated” is an understatement. The board could have chosen a graduate student, a teacher who is already respected in their field, someone with more credentials than me. They could have chosen anyone else. As a finalist, we weren’t allowed to know how many other finalists there were, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t notice the sketchpad with what seemed like a substantially long list of names.
The final question in the interview portion of the application was, “Why should you get this scholarship?” and I knew this question was coming. I sat in my car for 15 minutes before walking into the interview, wondering how to answer it. I told the board that honestly, I can’t say why I deserve this scholarship over any of the other applicants. I’m sure you have chosen finalists wisely, and each of them is just as worthy as I am, if not more. All I can say is that I am hard working, I am dedicated, and I will never give up. I didn’t think I would be chosen as the final recipient for their generous scholarship. I’m still shocked. I have to thank them from the bottom of my heart, for supporting me, trusting me, and most importantly, believing in me and who I am.
Anything else you would like to include?
I would not be able to accomplish everything that I have without my family. They support me, and even when I feel overwhelmed and alone, I know they will try their best to help me in the ways that they can.