Dr. Alohilani Okamura, School of Teacher Education (STE) Secondary World Languages Professor, is the recipient of the 2021 Southwest Conference on Language Teaching (SWCOLT) Excellence in Teaching Post-Secondary Award.
SWCOLT is a regional world language teachers’ organization in partnership with state teacher associations from Hawaiʻi, Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, and Utah. Okamura was selected for her exceptional commitment to language education.
“I am so proud of Dr. Okamura for being recognized for her excellence in preparing World Language (WL) teacher candidates,” STE Secondary Director Charlotte Frambaugh-Kritzer said. “Our WL candidates are diverse, specializing in Hawaiian, Samoan, Chinese, Korean, Spanish, French, and Japanese. Dr. Okamura is inspiring as she extensively takes on learning about each of these cultures and languages herself. She speaks fluent Hawaiian and some Japanese, yet more importantly she knows how to prepare any WL teacher candidate regardless of the language.”
With more than 30 years of experience teaching Hawaiian language and developing programs in public and charter schools throughout the state of Hawai‘i, Okamura says she developed a deep respect for learning the language as a graduate student at UH Mānoa.
“Learning and teaching the Hawaiian language and culture has been transformative for me, a way of life,” Okamura stated. “We speak the language and live the values. And now, in teacher education, it is even more important than ever to bring the Hawaiian language culture and values with me in cultivating the next generation of teachers in Hawaiʻi.”
Rooted in place-based learning, Okamura’s teaching, she explains, is a responsibility. “In Hawaiian we say, “Auamo ke kuleana” or to carry your responsibility. As Hawaiian language kumu (teachers), it is our kuleana (responsibility) to perpetuate the language and culture. The best way to do this is by standing on the shoulders of the cultural giants and icons, who came before us. Through their selfless examples of Aloha, we are equipped to inspire and educate the next generation of Hawaiian language learners.”
“Receiving this award is a privilege,” Okamura concluded. “Mahalo nui iā Dr. Charlotte Frambaugh-Kritzer; Lyanne Terada, President of Colorado Congress of Foreign Language Teachers; and Laura Davis, STE Secondary World Language Student, for writing letters of recommendation on my behalf.”
Okamura will be recognized during an SWCOLT Awards and Scholarships Celebration on Friday, March 26, 2021.