Waipahu Complex schools are tutored at Safe Haven’s temporary outdoor space
Waipahu Complex schools receive tutoring at Safe Haven’s temporary outdoor space

College of Education (COE) faculty members, Janet Kim and Vail Matsumoto, are the recipients of Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) funds. The Office of Governor David Ige announced on August 4, 2021 that he awarded 31 innovation grants with a focus on STEM education, project-based learning opportunities, and leadership development programs to schools, colleges, and other educational entities throughout Hawaiʻi.

Kim, COE Department of Special Education Recruitment Specialist, was awarded $315,600 for the SPEDucator Project. Matsumoto, Master of Education in Teaching Associate Professor, was awarded $104,000 for Catching up: Waipahu Safe Haven and UH Mānoa College of Education Filling the Pandemic Gap. Both programs will run through June 30, 2022.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is changing Hawai‘i, and every sector must reinvent itself for the post-COVID environment, including education,” Gov. Ige said in his news release. “The GEER awardees represent a diverse array of programs that address unprecedented pandemic needs and support the dreams and aspirations of each student.”SPEDucator project Zoom

The SPEDucator Project is an innovative initiative between the COE and Hawaiʻi Department of Education (HIDOE), which addresses the recruitment to retention pipeline of special education teachers for the state. Serving as co-coordinator with Kim is Derek Govin, a special education teacher at ʻEwa Makai Middle School. Their focus for this academic year is on changing the narrative and building a community of support for all stakeholders in special education.

“The pandemic was the catalyst for envisioning and bringing this project to life as community and support is what our teachers need to stay afloat during these challenging times,” Kim stated. “The GEER grant came at the perfect time to allow us to keep the SPEDucator Project going, and we are so honored and humbled to have been selected!”

Safe Haven aims to recreate, innovate, and support a safe space for the Waipahu community, including Marshallese and Chuukese families whose academic and cultural progress was disrupted by the pandemic, so that they can accelerate learning by capitalizing on educational and cultural resources. Through a combination of physical space renovation, community tutoring, and training of cultural experts, Safe Haven will evolve into a sustainable community center beyond the life of the grant.

Under the direction of Matsumoto, the Safe Haven team includes: COE Associate Specialist Stephanie Furuta, COE Instructor Stacy George, Leeward District English Learner Educational Specialist Greg Uchishiba, Safe Haven Immigrant and Migrant Resource Center Founder and Director Barbara Tom, and Waipahu High School Improvement Resource Teacher Joyce Bajet.

“This award validates the vision of our Waipahu Complex DOE PDS partnership and our COE programs to provide community support while also developing effective and culturally-responsive educators,” the team shared. “We are grateful for this opportunity to help Waipahu Safe Haven and the community of Waipahu who have given so much to our candidates.”

The GEER innovation grant program was developed and implemented in coordination with the GEER Advisory Group, which is composed of education leaders from Hawaiʻi’s public, private, and charter schools. Applicants submitted proposals addressing the impacts of COVID-19 on school services.

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