Ray Pikelny, principal of Wai‘anae Elementary School, is the 2020 recipient of the Masayuki Tokioka Excellence in School Leadership Award. Presented annually to a visionary and community-minded principal who provides high quality learning opportunities for their students, the accompanying $25,000 award is underwritten by the Island Insurance Foundation.
“I am totally honored to be the recipient of this award, which is really a people’s award,” Pikelny said. “There is so much that goes into the work we do, and we are just one portion of a larger hub of education that affects the community. This was a big win for the Wai‘anae-Nānākuli Complex, and I am glad we are getting to tell our story.”
Pikelny earned both a BEd in Elementary Education and an MEd in Educational Foundations from the College of Education (COE). For the past three years, she has been with Wai‘anae Elementary, one of COE’s partner schools that hosts candidates from the college’s Institute for Teacher Education (ITE). During her undergraduate program, she was a part of an ITE Elementary cohort, called Ka Lama o Ke Kaiāulu.
“When I was in the Ka Lama cohort, I met my lifelong friends,” Pikelny stated. “We weren’t traditional students; we all had kids. We carpooled together, came back to teach in our communities, shared teaching strategies, and have kept in touch ever since. Being a part of the cohort with coordinators like Alice Kawakami and Kathy Au helped us to build confidence and become models that inspire other people.”
Kawakami, retired professor of education, said “I met Ray when she was a master teacher at Mākaha Elementary School and she volunteered to mentor teacher candidates in our COE elementary teacher education program. Ray instilled a commitment to nurture and to hold high expectations for each student as a way of giving back to the community. Her commitment to improving the quality of education for students on the Leeward Coast has been demonstrated throughout her career. This award further enhances her ability to serve as a role model for others to serve their community through a career in education.”
Pikelny is credited with drastically reducing teacher and administrative turnover at Wai‘anae Elementary by creating a positive school culture and developing trusting relationships; establishing a robust afterschool enrichment environment that includes programs in performing arts, media, cooking, sports, and tutoring; and revitalizing the school’s garden with the help of community partners.
Next up, Pikelny is working to build a school-run credit union as well as a learning center, which will include a maker space, media center, robotics lab, and library.