MEd in LTEC Alumnus, Featured on Hawaii News Now

Kawika Gonzales

“Learning about how to design effective, engaging, targeted, and purposeful instruction is so important as a teacher. I wish all teachers were required to go through this program before they started teaching!”


Molokai, HI


Learning Design and Technology

Related Degrees

  • MEd, Learning Design & Technology

Where do you work?
I have been teaching at my elementary alma mater, Kaunakakai School, for the past 22 years. I am currently a 5th-grade general education teacher. I am also the Computer Science Coordinator, Math Chairperson, and a part of the Leadership Team at Kaunakakai School.

How did you and your students come to be featured on Hawaii News Now?
The Department of Education reached out to our school to inform us that Hawaii News Now (HNN) would be coming to Molokai and that HNN wanted to feature a class to highlight student voice. My principal asked me if I would be willing to share the innovative computer science and virtual reality projects I have been working on with my students.

What are the benefits of using technology, like virtual reality, in the classroom?
Incorporating technology, such as virtual reality, into the classroom serves as a “hook” to get kids excited about learning. Early in my teaching career, I recognized that my students became excited about their learning when I experimented with having them create, video, edit, and publish public service announcements as a culminating project for various science units. When the students were excited, I noticed that their creativity increased, they collaborated more, and they expanded their problem solving and complex thinking skills. This has increased exponentially as I have begun to incorporate additional technology into the classroom through activities such as robotics design and programming, 3D graphics, coding, and augmented/virtual reality, etc. My students now love to learn about history, they get excited about volume and measurements, and book reports and presentations have the chance to come alive in virtual reality!

Why did you choose the COE LTEC master’s program?
This is a funny one. At first, I thought LTEC would help me learn about the latest and greatest technology that I could use in my classroom; however, I quickly learned that the program is more about learning design. The deeper I got into the coursework, the more I realized that this was what I really needed! Learning about how to design effective, engaging, targeted, and purposeful instruction is so important as a teacher. I wish all teachers were required to go through this program before they started teaching!

Is there anyone in particular who influenced you to become an educator?
When I was in high-school, my business teacher, Mrs. Wada, demonstrated what it was to be a great teacher. She gently encouraged me to put forth my best effort while challenging me to live above the expectations. She wouldn’t accept mediocrity from me. This same teacher told me that I should be a teacher, and she gave me the self-confidence to believe that I could be a teacher. I don’t believe I would have been brave enough to seek out a career in education if it weren’t for her.

Also, since becoming a teacher, there have been many educators who have mentored me and positively impacted my teaching philosophy. My colleagues, my experiences, and my family, friends and community, have all shaped and supported who I am, and they continue to spur me on to be the best possible version of myself so that, in turn, I can impact the lives of my students.

What advice would you give to someone interested in becoming a teacher?
Find your passion. Your passion for teaching is just as important as what you are teaching. And when you’re passionate about what you’re teaching, your students will enjoy learning and teaching will be enjoyable!

What was the highlight of the LTEC program?
I developed deep friendships during my time at LTEC through all of the collaborative projects and especially through the “Critical Friends” component of our master’s projects. I came to look forward to the helpful, although sometimes difficult to hear, feedback from my peers, and I knew that I could count on them as we collaborated to complete our projects.

Overall, I feel that the LTEC program propelled me both personally and as a teacher. The challenges that we tackled through classwork, projects, and presentations helped to develop my skills and confidence that were needed in order to take on new leadership roles. I am thankful to all of my professors for their mentorship and my cohort who have become my friends.

“Kawika has been very successful in engaging his elementary students with interdisciplinary lessons using Meta/Oculus VR headsets and CoSpaces where his students create 3D virtual objects and learn coding in VR. I’ve been very impressed with what he has done with his students on Molokai using VR technologies.” – LTEC Associate Professor Peter Leong

Check out the Hawaii News Now feature here (scroll down and select the “Mahalo Tour 2022: Virtual reality in the classroom” video).

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