PBCTE Secondary Alumnus, Grow Our Own Recipient, & Social Justice Advocate

Brandon Galarita

“… we get to honor Princess Ke‘elikōlani and the legacy she has left through her wealth to the education of the children of Hawaiʽi.”

Hometown

Lahaina, Maui, Hawaiʽi

Department

Institute for Teacher Education - Secondary

Related Degrees

  • Post-Baccalaureate Certificate, Secondary Education (PBCTE, Secondary)

Where do you work?

I have been teaching eighth grade English at Princess Ruth Ke‘elikōlani Middle School (formerly Central Middle School*) for the past four years.

*Your school recently unveiled a name change. How did this come about and what is the significance of this change?

In 2018, I started teaching at what was then called Central Middle School. I had wondered about our school’s name because it didn’t quite make sense. My alma mater, Lahainaluna High, among other schools’ names in the state make sense. But Central didn’t. It wasn’t until after I enrolled in the PBCTE-Secondary program that I was tasked with the signature assignment to research the assets of my school community that I could use to leverage my teaching practice. I uncovered such a rich history of Princess Ke‘elikōlani, and it was confusing to know it and yet have our name as Central. After speaking with our librarian, Holly Gates, about the school, she had shared with me even more history and documents from our school that date back to the 1920s. Holly, former principal Anne Marie Murphy, and other community members had formed a committee to pursue the name change. After three years of hard work by the committee, most of which was severely interrupted by COVID, the Hawaiʽi Board of Education voted unanimously on the name change on September 16th, 2021.

This significance of the renaming is so much more than simply a name change. It will move our school’s history into a new chapter that highlights the strength of moʽolelo and values that the Princess held. Now, we get to honor Princess Ke‘elikōlani and the legacy she has left through her wealth to the education of the children of Hawaiʽi. I also believe that it will be an exemplar for what other name changes can look like across the state as educators look to validate their spaces in positive ways.

How did you become interested in the field of education?

Growing up, I always had an interest in education, not in the formal sense, but I had found myself in the “teacher” role for my friends. With hindsight being 20-20, I never knew the leadership roles in my high school symphonic band lent themselves to becoming an educator, but they certainly had. Even after high school, I didn’t know I was going to become a teacher. The only thing I did know was that, if it was possible to go to school for the rest of my life for free (pursuing more and more degrees that is), I’d do that. Funny enough, I do go to school every day, and instead of new degrees, I am learning the depth of knowledge of my students, their backgrounds, their strengths and needs, and how to best impact their lives with the position and skills I have been blessed to have.

Describe your road to college. How did the Grow Our Own stipend impact your journey?

I was the first person in my family to graduate from college, which I am thankful to have been able to with not just one degree, but with three! Right after high school, I enrolled at UH Maui College to pursue an Associate in Liberal Arts. After obtaining that degree, I transferred to UH Mānoa where I realized that English was going to be the fastest way to complete a bachelor’s degree. I knew I had limited funds, and I didn’t entirely care what degree I could get. I love all subjects, but English was the one that I believed was destined to be. My degree in English wasn’t enough to become a licensed teacher, and I explored many ways to do so, but it wasn’t after a short break to care for my grandmother that I heard about the Grow Our Own (GOO) stipend. Without it, I simply would not have been able to afford the PBCTE program without taking out even more student loans. The GOO has allowed me to enter into a space with confidence and clarity where I was challenged and grew as an educator in more ways than I can think of. I am deeply thankful for Senator Michelle Kidani in her advocacy of the GOO program as our keiki need programs like it and more.

Is there anyone in particular in the COE who has impacted or benefited your career path?

There are three people in the COE who have especially impacted my career path. In no particular order, Dr. Charlotte Frambaugh-Kritzer, whose empathy and excitement for middle school inspired me to provide the same for my students; Dr. Chad Miller, who lit the flame for me to step boldly into the role of a teacher-leader and teacher-philosopher; and Cheryl Treiber-Kawaoka, who encouraged me to continue innovating and reflecting on my practice as I push through the challenges I face.

What are your future plans?

I deeply believe that I am called to teach at Princess Ruth Ke‘elikōlani Middle School until I am called elsewhere as there is such a deep need in more areas than just academics. In the meantime, I simply will be continuing to challenge my own thinking and assumptions about my practice, my students, and education as a whole in hopes of bringing meaningful change to the profession through the relationships I will build with the educators across the state.

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