Cheryl Treiber-Kawaoka, of the UH Mānoa College of Education Institute for Teacher Education (ITE), is the 2021 Hawaii Art Education Association (HAEA) Art Educator of the Year. Recently retired after more than 20 years with the university, Treiber-Kawaoka will be recognized at the National Art Education Association (NAEA) annual conference in March.
“This award is really an acknowledgement of the huge impact the College of Education has on the field of art education,” Treiber-Kawaoka said. “During this pandemic, we see that the arts have a very important role to play bringing learning to life through arts integration and through art for social-emotional health. I think more than anything, my talent is inspiring others to be their own unique kind of art teacher and to realize how important their work is for the keiki.”
Starting as a theater instructor at the University Laboratory School in 2000, Treiber-Kawaoka joined ITE Elementary in 2004, teaching visual and performing arts classes. Always an advocate for integrating the arts into the curriculum, she also supervised general education students in the field. In 2015, she began working with ITE Secondary where she taught visual arts methods courses and served as a university art and dance coordinator.
“Cheryl’s commitment to advancing art education in Hawaiʻi, despite the decrease of art in our public schools, has always left a lasting impression on our elementary teacher candidates,” said ITE Elementary Education Program Director Kuʻulei Serna. “Her fervor and quality instruction has motivated and empowered our candidates to incorporate the arts into their teaching.”
As an art therapist, Treiber-Kawaoka worked at Gallaudet Pre-College before moving to Saipan where she began her journey as an art educator, teaching students from elementary to junior college. Later, she was the arts curriculum specialist for the Marianas Islands, writing their first standards-based art curriculum. The 2019 COE nominee for the UH Excellence in Teaching Award, she helped advocate for a teaching license in dance with the Hawai‘i Teacher Standards Board (HTSB).
ITE Secondary Education Program Director Charlotte Frambaugh-Kritzer said, “I was not surprised to hear that Cheryl won this award. I had the opportunity to observe her Performing Arts class for an entire semester (for a research project), and I can attest that her instruction is exceptional and inspirational. She fully deserves this award.”
Treiber-Kawaoka loves to do watercolors, collage, and art with meditation. In her retirement, she says she hopes to go back to her roots in art therapy and to explore the intersection of art and spirituality as well as the joy and wisdom in the art of improvisation.