Redup. of haʻa; low, lowly, minimum, humble, degraded, meek, unpretentious, modest, unassuming, unobtrusive; lowness, humility.

Pukui, Mary Kawena, Hawaiian dictionary : Hawaiian-English, English-Hawaiian 


Our mission at Kāneʻohe Elementary is to inspire all to embrace learning and discover passions with aloha at our core. But what does that look like in practice? How do we know when we have realized this mission with our students? Sometimes students write a letter to me as part of class assignment. While wonderfully written and persuasive, I’m unsure if it stem from their passions or if they are inspired. During these times, I remind myself to be haʻahaʻa and set aside my assumptions or judgements. I look beyond the words on the paper, ask questions, and listen for passions that have been ignited. This week, I was blessed to experience that inspiration from one of our students, inspiring me to ask, “Who wants to help build Buddy Benches?

As a teacher, one of the most fulfilling joys is seeing students’ eyes light up when they finally “got it.” When the lesson clicks and they not just understand, but can see all the different applications tied to that learning. It’s like Dorothy landing in Oz and seeing the entire world in color. For example, when I taught freshman physics, I tried to help  students see a relevance to the periodic table and the different elements. They learned that the most abundant element in the universe is hydrogen, the primary component of stars. Humans, on the other hand, are primarily composed of oxygen and carbon – much more complex elements than hydrogen. And the only way oxygen and carbon could have been created and deposited onto our planet is to be forged deep within the core of a star which then exploded, scattering its dust across the galaxies. Once students realized they were literally composed of stardust, they started to see themselves differently…more special…connected to the constellations in the night sky.

So what could top that? For a teacher, it’s getting the validation that students took something you’ve taught them and used it to make the world a better place. A few months before the pandemic, one of my former students, Jefferson, arrived on our campus unannounced. I immediately recognized him although he now sported a goatee and it had been 20 years since we last saw each other. As a ninth grader, I found Jefferson hard to read. He wasn’t one to laugh heartily or show the wonderment his classmates often emoted. Yet, Jefferson consistently asked insightful questions, hinting at the depth of thought swirling behind his somber eyes. My mind raced, wondering what brought about his visit. Jefferson told me that he had been searching for me for a couple of years. He had moved back from the continent after working there straight from college. He inquired about me back at Kailua High School, but no one he spoke with could help him. Then he saw an article about our school and tracked me to Kāneʻohe. Like it was ninth grade all over again, I could see no clue on Jefferson’s face as to why he sought me out. “I just wanted to thank you,” Jefferson announced. He said that after high school he was inspired by my science class to become a geophysicist. Now he’s working at Hawaiian Volcano Observatory measuring the hazards posed by the current eruptions. I was blown away. I had no idea that I had such an impact on him. I had only hope that something I taught was clicking. Yet, all these years later, Jefferson’s expression of appreciation and his efforts to help Hawaiʻi and the world, was way more gratifying than all of those ooos and ahs my students expressed at the time.

A few days ago, I was treated to experience this feeling once again – not for anything I had done or taught, but resulting from the efforts of one of our part-time teachers, Ms. Scarlett. Over the past semester, Ms. Scarlett, an aspiring teacher, has been working with Luke on how to be a stronger reader and as the year comes to a close, Luke felt inspired to share something with me. So he wrote it in a letter and Ms. Scarlett brought him to my office to read to me. As Luke sat in the oversized chair on the opposite side of my desk, he gingerly opened his letter and began to read. For a first grader sitting in front of the principal, Luke did his best to hide his nervousness. He recalled how hard it was to make friends, as a shy kid starting school. He wished our school had a buddy bench. He explained that a buddy bench was somewhere you could sit and show others that you wanted to form friendships. It was a way of asking someone to play without having to go up and ask them. Like in the grownup world, there are people who are outgoing and others that are more reluctant. For some shy kids, it’s difficult to overcome the fear of putting yourself out there only to be rejected. So a buddy bench helps others be haʻahaʻa to those too shy to express their feelings.

I asked Luke where he got the idea for a buddy bench. Luke explained that he read about it in a book he read with Ms. Scarlett. Right on cue, she stepped forward with the book and handed it to Luke to show me. My heart warmed. Ms. Scarlett did not just teach Luke to be a stronger reader, she inspired him through reading. Like Jefferson, Luke wants to use what he learned to make our school a better place. So, who wants to help build Buddy Benches this summer? Luke has a design and if this inspires you to act, please let me know. We are looking for funds, materials, and labor.

Ms. Scarlett with Luke showing his Buddy Bench design. Mahalo nui loa to Luke’s parents for allowing me to share his story and picture.

To show HAʻAHAʻA, 

  • Empty yourself – set aside your ego
  • Be thoughtful of others and their perspective
  • Listen but also be watchful


Inspired by Gholdy Muhammad

Please watch this: The Buddy Bench written by Patty Brozo and illustrated by Mike Deas. (Note this is not the same book Maleko read) Then with you child, answer the following:

IDENTITY: Have you ever felt too shy or afraid to join others that are playing a game you want to join? Have you ever noticed other kids watching from the side and asked them if them want to join in? What have you done in those situations?

SKILLS: The Buddy Bench uses a Coupled Rhyme scheme where the end of each pair of lines rhyme. For example,

“Iʻm new here,” said Will, “and todayʻs my first day.
No one but you has asked me to play.”

“Well help us keep this kite in the air.”
“Okay,” said Will, “I’ll be right there.”

Create your own poem about doing something fun at school using a Coupled Rhyme scheme.f=]

INTELLECT: Similar to an architect or engineer, an Industrial Designer is someone who designs products like benches that are manufactured. Watch this video about a college student studying to be an Industrial Designer. 

CRITICALITY: Other than a Buddy Bench, think of other things could be used to help connect people who feel lonely or want to make friends.

JOY: In the story, the Buddy Bench says, “Buddy Bench – Nobody Alone.” Come up with a phrase you would like to see on a Buddy Bench and decorations that go along with it.


Speaking of applying what’s being learned to better the world, our math enrichment students decided they wanted to use their math skills to raise money to support a good Samaritan who has been showing the Live Aloha spirit to people in his community. So they created different products centered around the theme of Aloha to support our school’s efforts and sold them to our staff and ohana. To ensure they could reach the goal of covering their costs while making enough for a sufficient donation, students needed to do all the calculations associated with running a business…without even a business degree. The project was a great success and the shopping was a highlight of our faculty meeting. Mahalo nui loa Math Enrichment students and their teacher, Mrs. Chinen.

MAHALO NUI LOA: Morning Traffic Volunteers

Throughout the year, we’ve been blessed to have parent, Joni Kamiya and her team of volunteers assist those crossing Mokulele get to school and remind those traveling that road to obey the speed limit. This Mokulele safety team has surely helped our students and families remain safe and we are thankful for their service.


Now that testing is over, we resume our Daily Virtual Piko. This practice helps us become centered and ready to learn. It helps us get on the same page, hearing one message of focus for the day and the week. If you are able, we begin at 8 AM everyday except Wednesday when we conduct the piko in-person.



Thur, May 25, 20236th Grade Promotion Ceremony
Fri, May 26, 2023Schoolwide Awards Assembly (Students & Staff Only – ceremony will be posted on KES website)
Last day of school


Good natured; not easily provoked; good humored as applied to a nature of ease and cheerfulness.

Andrews L., Parker H.H. A Dictionary of Hawaiian Language

In 1993, nearly two generations ago, I began my journey as an educator, teaching 9th grade Physical Science Y at Kailua High School. The “Y” meant students were segregated purportedly by “ability,” “X” being the “high” group and “Y” the “low.” As a newcomer to the school, it seemed to me that students were segregated less by their intelligence, and more by other qualities such as exposure to science,  zip code and ethnicity. This disparity was obvious to more than just me, the kids knew it as well. 

Just before the first period of the first day of school, my students raucously made their way into class as I greeted them at the door and showed them where to sit. Most of the students behaved like old friends, shaking hands, nodding heads, and smiles of acknowledgment. The tardy bell rang with just one seat vacant. Then as I turned to the chalkboard (yes – legit chalk back then) I spied a short boy of Japanese decent peaking into the door. I bade him in but before I could confirm his name, a loud, rowdy voice shouted, “Eh! You in the wrong class! Japanese kids next door!” I quickly turned my head to face the largest freshman I’d ever seen, a boy of Hawaiian descent, pouring out of his too small seat, sporting a goatee and sparkling, wary eyes. He pointed towards the “X” class. I quickly and embarrassingly said “no, no, hold on.” And asked the boy at the door for his name. I confirmed he was in our class and showed him to his seat.  

Later I took a look next door to see a class filled with students of white and Asian ancestry. My class on the other hand was filled with kids largely from Waimanalo and of Hawaiian descent. Just a few days into my teaching career and I vowed to change this gross inequity. 

Thankfully, my neighbor who taught Physical Science X was also fairly new to the school and not entrenched into the existing structure. He easily became convinced a change needed to be made. We agreed to untrack the course the next school year thus creating a more diverse mix of students in each class. Beyond feeling  this was the right thing to do, we discovered greater benefits resulting from untracking. Students’ academic performance increased so much that we could no longer detect a difference between students based on where they lived. Further, student behavior immediately improved. Students no longer felt like a “Y” student, no longer ashamed for being labeled “low”, no longer feeling stupid. 

Unfortunately, it would be many more years before 10th grade biology followed suit with one of the teachers proclaiming, “these kids will never go to college!” To which I sniped, “Who are you to decide that for them?” 

Yesterday, in her closing remarks to the graduates, one of my daughter’s bioethics professors declared, “May you forever be burdened by your knowledge of the inequities in the world. Now go out and do something.” And it reminded me of my attempts to do something as a young teacher and how my approach has changed as an older school leader. If I had approached my resistant colleagues with aloha, uncovering the lokahi we share and showing ʻoluʻolu, would change have come more quickly? Perhaps like my students who behaved better when treated with dignity, my colleagues may have been more receptive if I did not vilify them. Perhaps they’d have been more willing to change if I instead enlisted them as champions for our students. Perhaps they’d have been more willing to go out and do something.

To show ʻOLUʻOLU

  • Stay true to your values;
  • Remain strong; and
  • Speak and act in kindness.


Inspired by Gholdy Muhammad

Please watch this: Ho’onani: Hula Warrior written by Heather Gale and illustrated by Mika Song.Then with you child, answer the following:

IDENTITY: What role does music and dance play in your culture? Who are the people in your life who are most passionate about music and/or dance? Interview one of them and ask how it makes them feel and what it makes them think.

SKILLS: Hoʻonani’s character is based on a real personwho faced a similar challenge. So, what genre of literature would this be classified as? Fiction? Non-fiction? Something else?

INTELLECT: In this story, Hoʻonani identifies as māhū, embracing both masculine and feminine traits. In nature, many animals possess different gender traits, sometimes even changing their gender in order to survive. For example, some species of butterflies change their gender in order to increase their chances of surviving cold winters. Research an animal that changes their gender.

CRITICALITY: In the introduction the authors share their hope that we might follow the Hawaiian tradition of showing “every person the same unconditional acceptance and respect.” How might you show unconditional acceptance and respect to others?

JOY: Ho’onani shows ʻoluʻolu when she reminds herself to be “strong, sure, and steady.” What do you say to yourself to give yourself courage?

MAHALO NUI LOA: 4TH Grade ʻOhana Camping & Hōʻike

Thank you to our dedicated 4th grade team for braving the mud and rain to put on a family camping and service event at ʻĀina Aloha o Na Lima Hana, our community partner. A huge mahalo goes out to our students and their families for joining in this building of community, centered around celebrating our studentsʻ learning. Thank you also to Uncle Mark, Aunty Lina, and their ohana for hosting this wonderful and meaningful event. 

MAHALO NUI LOA: Campus Beautification #2

A huge thank you goes out to Jolyn Kresge, Wali Camvel, and Dee Fujinaka for organizing our second Campus Beautification event, continuing the efforts to create our Peace Trail, restore Puʻu Makani, and give Kāneʻohe Elementary much needed love. Our Navy Partners and their families came out in full force along with Uncle Estria of Mele Murals, members of our staff, and many families and students who showed akahai to our campus.


We finalize our Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBA) testing this week, ending on May 19, 2023.  Please ensure your child 

  • has a good nightʻs rest; 
  • eats a healthy breakfast;
  • bring their headphones to school; and 
  • is on time for school.

Tardy students cannot take the SBA on the day they are tardy.  

Depending on our completion status, we will restart our daily virtual piko on Thursday, May 18.


Apr 25 – May 19, 2023Smarter Balance Testing at Kāneʻohe ElementaryNo piko
Thur, May 25, 20236th Grade Promotion Ceremony
Fri, May 26, 2023Awards CeremonyLast day of school


Agreement in mind; unanimity of sentiment; union of feeling; oneness; similarity.

Andrews, Hawaiian Dictionary, 1865


As a six years old, every adult seemed old. I even equated height with age, thinking the tallest humans were the most elderly. Along those lines of thinking, I thought Mrs. Tanaka, my first grade teacher was one of the oldest, wisest person I knew. She probably was in her late twenties, but kid reasoning made me see her as a sage. Towering over us with an ever present smile stretching across her face, I looked forward to her class everyday. Mrs. Tanaka taught me to read and celebrated all of my successes. This enthusiasm was not reserved just for me. She lauded every student in our class, but somehow she made it feel special and personal. Even in 4th grade, when I won a special honor, Mrs. Tanaka was the first person I told. Then in 5th grade, when I got into private school, Mrs. Tanaka gave me a big hug and told me how proud she was of me. 

Years later, I wonder if I ever thanked her and let her know how much she meant to me. Back then, we didn’t have Teacher Appreciation Week or even a day set aside to acknowledge teachers – that wasn’t until 1984, and I was well into high school. As a child, it did not occur to me to say, “Thank you for all you’ve done for me. Thank you for giving me the gift of reading and a love for learning. Your validation meant the world to me because I wanted to make you proud.” 

We all had a “Mrs. Tanaka.” That is a lōkahi we share. We all had a teacher who taught us a valuable skill, opened our eyes to a new wonder, made us feel safe, and praised us for each step forward we took. Sometimes, our “Mrs. Tanaka” might not be a classroom teacher. It might be an Educational Assistant or tutor that cheered us from the side. It might be a coach or a club advisor that spent long hours guiding our efforts. We may have had a “Mrs. Tanaka” that was a caring adult on campus that did not play a role in the classroom, but watched out for us, picked us up when we fell, and let us know we were seen.

Forty-seven years later I can only hope that wherever Mrs. Tanaka is, she knows that she made a huge difference in the lives of her students – especially during this week as we show our appreciation to teachers, including those informal teachers who work in our cafeteria, office, and taking care of our grounds. Please join me in taking some time to say thank you and let our staff know that what they do is valued and appreciated.

To show LŌKAHI

  • Acknowledge that we share common values; and
  • Act in unison in alignment of those values.


Inspired by Gholdy Muhammad

Note: In honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, I will be featuring books by and/or focused on Asians and Pacific Islanders. 

Please watch this: The Beckoning Cat written, illustrated by Koko Nishizuka and illustrated by Rosanne Litzinger.Then with you child, answer the following:

IDENTITY: The maneki neko is a symbol of good luck in Japan that has been adopted by many Asian American restaurants and stores. Learn about and share the animals that symbolize good luck in your family or culture.

SKILLS: More than good luck, gratitude seems to be a theme in this book. How do the characters in this book show gratitude? Provide examples from the book.

INTELLECT: “The beckoning cat may seem to us to be waving, rather than beckoning. In the United States, we hold our hands upright with the palm facing us and beckon with one or all of our fingers. In Japan, and throughout Asia, this gesture is used to beckon dogs, not people, and is considered rude when directed toward people. To call a person over to you, you would put your fingers downwards, as the cats in the picture do, and beckon with all the fingers. While studying the story of Maneki Neko, make an effort to use this gesture instead of the usual American one. Consider studying about other cross-cultural differences in gestures.” (Source: Fresh Plans)

CRITICALITY: The maneki neko has been adopted by people across the world as a good luck charm. How might borrowing from and learning about other cultures promote connection and greater harmony?

JOY: Try making an origami maneki neko out of a square piece of paper. Here’s a more advanced version and a simpler one.


Six years ago, I joined a core group of leaders in using the Design Thinking process to develop and pilot a mentoring program for our 6th graders. Sixth grade is a critical year in a child’s development. As they enter puberty, beyond the obvious physical changes, children experience intense emotional changes.. They become mercurial causing them to feel confused, scared, angry and not know why. Peer acceptance grows in importance while parental approval diminishes in priority. So we thought, maybe pairing our sixth graders with a positive role model from Castle High School might help them with this transition and make better choices. The mentors had lunch with sixth graders once-a-week for a couple of months. The leaders planned out activities so the pairs could bond and arranged the transportation. Back then, the seniors had a very tight schedule and needed to promptly return for class. In the end, although the program was a great success, it was not sustainable due to transportation issues and the rigid high school schedule. So the pilot lasted a year with only a time capsule the mentoring pairs contributed to at the end of the program, May 5, 2017. Six years to the date, we gathered a few of the former 6th graders who are now seniors at Castle and their mentors who are in their professional careers. We reminisced, reconnected and ended the day opening the time capsule. None of the participants could recall what they wrote, but valued the words their younger selves put down on paper. Now that Castle’s schedule has changed and there is greater flexibility, there might be a chance we can revive this wonderful, important opportunity. In the meantime, mahalo nui loa to those who gathered including the mentors (Hannah Deitch-Cumming, Jesy Iwamasa, Keilee Simms, and Kai Zimmerman), mentees (Kaimana Arruda, Devon Hirao, Tyler Masumoto, Miala Matsumoto, Marley Pokipala, Roman Skonecki, and Emmalyn Uyehara) and especially the program coordinators (Nathan French, Ayada Bonilla, Shareen Masumoto, and Karen Kimura) who made this wonderful day possible.


We continue our Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBA) testing this week and through May 19, 2023.  Please ensure your child 

  • has a good nightʻs rest; 
  • eats a healthy breakfast;
  • bring their headphones to school; and 
  • is on time for school.

Tardy students cannot take the SBA on the day they are tardy.  

During this time period, we will also cancel our daily piko on testing days. We will resume piko on Monday, May 15.


Sat, May 13, 2023Campus Beautification #2
Apr 25 – May 19, 2023Smarter Balance Testing at Kāneʻohe ElementaryNo piko
Mon, May 15, 2023Daily Piko returns
Thur, May 25, 20236th Grade Promotion Ceremony
Fri, May 26, 2023Awards CeremonyLast day of school

AKAHAI & the Engineering Mindset

Aka, with, care, and hai, to speak. To be tender of heart; meek

Andrews, Hawaiian Dictionary, 1865


Fifteen percent – Out of the 570 students that presented their engineering design projects last week Friday, I predict 15% will go on to pursue a career in engineering. I might be way off and probably a bit optimistic but currently only 5% of students across the nation enroll in engineering degree programs. So, why dedicate an entire day to celebrating engineering, not to mention the engineering field day we had earlier in the year? Three reasons:

  1. Part of our mission is to inspire students to discover their passions. Who knows what amazing learning experiences our teachers design will provide that spark? So we expose students to as many diverse, engaging, and stimulating experiences that we can, including engineering;
  2. According to the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce, engineering  is one of the occupations that will be in the highest demand in the future. Hence, it is prudent to build students’ awareness that they might be an awesome, much needed engineer in the future; and
  3. Most importantly, the Engineering Design Process aligns with our efforts to cultivate a Growth Mindset in our students. Built into the process is failing and making mistakes. Students continually test and improve upon their failures, learning what works, and how to come up with a better solution. 

Thinking like an engineer means to accept one’s mistakes, understand that it is naturally a part of the problem-solving process. It is a way to show grace, AKAHAI, to ourselves. Too often, we home in on the tiny foibles, allowing them to overshadow our successes and lessons learned. For example, when I coached basketball, pre-Growth Mindset, I would get down on every error, turnover, and mindless foul our players made. We were never good enough, even when we won. I overlooked the plays we did well because our mistakes seemed more glaring. I wish I had the engineer’s mindset and shown AKAHAI to our players and myself. Sure, we tried to improve upon those mistakes, but our effort and the results were diminished because we felt so imperfect. Never mind learning from our successes either. 

An engineering mindset, would have allowed our players and me to embrace our mistakes and understand that it’s an inherent part of learning the sport. We would have viewed our errors and successes as data for our improvement – not as character flaws and serendipitous happenstances. In turn, an engineering mindset would have improved our effort and motivation. 

During the morning of our STEM Hōʻike, students visited other classes and heard from those younger and older how they applied the engineering design process to a different problem. Sixth graders heard kindergarteners introduce themselves as engineers and describe how they iterated to keep their paper houses from being blown down by the Big Bad Wolf. First graders saw how 4th graders designed traps to rid our streams of invasive species so native fish can once again thrive. While many students had yet to achieve success with their prototypes, their efforts and lessons learned were celebrated. Students also saw how this universal process grounded our school and strengthened overtime. Regardless if they become engineers, all developed a mindset that we can learn and always get better. 

To show AKAHAI

  • Accept our mistakes as natural and expected;
  • Reflect and strive to learn from mistakes and successes alike; and
  • Accept the mistakes others make and show them grace.


Inspired by Gholdy Muhammad

Please watch this: The Book of Mistakes written, illustrated by Corinna LuykenThen with you child, answer the following:

IDENTITY: Describe a time when you improved upon a mistake and experienced an outcome better than you initially expected.

SKILLS: Explain why you think the author wrote this story? Provide examples from the book.

INTELLECT: Ever hear the phrase, ”The real McCoy?” Watch this video about Elijah McCoy, a former slave turned engineer who’s invention built upon the mistakes he encountered and revolutionized the railroad industry.

CRITICALITY: If you hear a classmate making fun of someone for making a mistake, what can you do? 

JOY: Start a drawing. Then drop a dot of ink/paint onto the drawing or make a big mark in the middle with a marker. Take that “mistake” and add to or change their piece to create something new out of it.


We continue our Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBA) testing this week and through May 19, 2023.  Please ensure your child 

  • has a good nightʻs rest; 
  • eats a healthy breakfast;
  • bring their headphones to school; and 
  • is on time for school.

Tardy students cannot take the SBA on the day they are tardy.  

During this time period, we will also cancel our daily piko on testing days.


Mon, May 1, 2023Waiver Day – No Students
Sat, May 13, 2023Campus Beautification #2
Apr 25 – May 19, 2023Smarter Balance Testing
Thur, May 25, 2023 6th Grade Promotion Ceremony
Fri, May 26, 2023Awards Ceremony
Last day of school