Christina Keaulana Honored by State Legislature

for her invaluable contribution to Hawaii's educational system

On Friday, February 28, 2020, Dr. Christina Keaulana was recognized for her invaluable contributions to the state educational systems by the Hawai‘i State Legislature in an Honorary Floor Presentation. Keaulana, the Special Education Coordinator in Leeward's Teacher Education program, was honored for designing and implementing the Nānākuli Educational Assistant-to-Teacher Pilot Program.

The program was designed to increase and enhance the recruitment, support, and retention of educators from diverse backgrounds, with a specific emphasis on the chronic shortage of special education teachers statewide. Candidates with experience and commitment to working with special needs students and who themselves are representatives of the culturally and linguistically diverse populations we serve were recruited into the program.

Through a collaborative effort between Leeward’s Teacher Education Program and the Institute for Native Pacific Education and Culture (INPEACE), a pathway was designed for Educational Assistants (EA) to complete an accelerated, site-based/hybrid Bachelors of Science in SPED K-12, a State Approved Teacher Education Program. 

Leeward provides comprehensive wrap-around services to support these non-traditional students, who are first time college students, or in advanced age group, or have limited exposure to navigating online higher education. The Nānākuli EA-to-Teacher Pilot Program is leading the charge in establishing a long-term pipeline of locally sourced, highly invested, and culturally competent teacher candidates to work in the Hawai‘i DOE schools with chronic teacher turnover.

In Fall 2018, 37 ambitious Educational Assistants residing in Wa‘ianae enrolled in the pilot program and Keaulana procured funds to cover the tuition for all 4 years of their Bachelor of Science in SPED leading to teacher licensure.

Keaulana states, “Leeward Community College has given me a platform to innovate and to serve as a change agent for my community.  I am privileged to hold the position I have in the teacher education program and blessed to have the leadership who gives unwavering support of outside-the-box thinking and for sharing a community strength-based approach to teaching and learning."

The resolution was initiated by Senator Michelle Kidani and supported by Representatives Stacelynn Eli, Cedric Gates, Justin Woodson, & Scott Saiki and Senators Maile Shimabukuro, and Ronald Kouichi. A reception was held in Senator Maile Shimabukuro’s office after the ceremony.