Associate Specialist

Linda smiling in front of a Japanese cherry blossom tree

"I think there are many people who want to become special educators but feel this dream is out of their reach. I am excited about helping individuals achieve their career goals through this project."


Pearl City, Hawai‘i


Special Education

Describe your position/role in the department.
As an Associate Specialist, I was heavily involved with arranging field placements and advising teacher candidates in our special education teacher preparation programs for many years. More recently, I’m involved with overseeing special programs in addition to teaching and field supervision of candidates in schools and advising graduate students.

How did you first become interested in the field of special education?
Actually, in my mid 20s, I was an assistant English teacher with the JET Programme and my main responsibility was to teach conversational English and American culture to middle and high school students in rural Japan. One day, I was asked to teach a lesson to students in a fully self contained special education classroom. I had no prior experience teaching in an FSC classroom and I did not know what to expect. However, my experience with the students was absolutely amazing. What was originally intended to be a one time visit turned into an ongoing arrangement that changed the trajectory of my career.

Describe your own road to higher education.
I was a cooperating teacher for the MEd with licensure program so I had regular communication with the Special Education Department faculty. One day, a faculty member told me about a limited term position that was being advertised and encouraged me to think about applying for it. I took this advice and I have been here ever since!

What are your research interests?
Issues in special education teacher education, advising teacher candidates, and more recently, I have become interested in researching ways to support higher education students with disabilities who want to go on study abroad programs.

What is Project Equal Access and who is it for?
Project Equal Access will help us prepare more special education teachers who are from underrepresented communities, such as Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities, by providing support and resources to remove some of the barriers to obtaining a teaching license. This project really enhances the outstanding work of our department in preparing special education teachers from diverse backgrounds to teach in the Hawaiʻi public schools.

What are you most excited about in receiving the grant?
I think there are many people who want to become special educators but feel this dream is out of their reach. I am excited about helping individuals achieve their career goals through this project. I am also very excited about the positive impact these special educators will have – as teachers, mentors, and role models – on the children/youth in their home communities.

What do you like to do outside of education?
I have been studying Japanese language diligently for the last few years. I can hold a conversation using standard Japanese and my dream is to learn to speak in Kyoto dialect. I also really love taking photos of things in nature, particularly flowers, the more unusual, the better. I probably have taken hundreds of photos of different types of flowers that I have yet to identify. The flower that I really want to photograph is the skeleton flower, which is white and turns translucent when wet!

Read the College of Education Newsletter announcement for the Project Equal Access grant award.

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