Hawaii teachers share their journey to National Board Certification

70 teachers honored in ceremonies on Oahu, Hawaii Island, Maui and Kauai this week

This week, the Hawaii State Teachers Association, Hawaii Department of Education and Kamehameha Schools recognized dozens of teachers across the state who have earned or renewed their National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Certification.

Seventy teachers were honored in ceremonies on Oahu, Hawaii Island, Maui and Kauai; 63 of whom work in public schools.

These teachers voluntarily undertook and completed the rigorous certification process to join the ranks of more than 650 National Board Certified Teachers (NBCT) in Hawaii who demonstrate that they meet the most advanced teaching standards in the nation.

“The process is really scary at first, because just reading everything and I wasn’t sure when I read everything if, you just kind of doubt yourself, like if you’re good enough," said Kathleen Trifonovitch, Maunawili Elementary fifth-grade teacher. “It pretty much tested my knowledge and skills in all aspects. You can’t fake it. You have to truly be effective, collect the data and show your instructional knowledge, and you have to have to really want and believe that the teacher is the most important thing for the students, and that you’re willing to do all of that to make sure they all have equity, they all learn, and they all make gains.”

Educators are required to complete four components: a computer-based assessment and three portfolio-based submissions that involve work samples, video recordings, and written commentary and analysis.

"It was a really good process to try to figure out what am I doing and what can I do better," said Lisa Espiritu, Nimitz Elementary fifth-grade teacher. "We don’t really take as much time as we should to think about what we’re doing in the classroom, and so this kind of forces you to go through and actually analyze what you’re doing and reflect on it and try to make yourself better."

Click here to watch our video on YouTube.

Espiritu says support from her family and the Hawaii State Teachers Association were key to her success. HSTA offers the NEA Jump Start program and candidate support sessions in partnership with Kamehameha Schools.

"(Jump Start) kind of helped me understand the whole process and kind of break it down and figure out what I needed to do, and then they had a support group along the way that I would go to and meet with my mentor teacher to talk about it, so that was helpful," Espiritu said. "It is a lot of work and so it’s easy to just be like, 'Ugh, maybe I don’t want to, wait, I don’t want to do this right now,' or 'I don’t know if I can do this right now,' so having other people that are going through it, you can just sit and talk with them and the people that have already gone through it, just sort of bounce ideas off of them. That was crucial I think in being able to do it."

Hawaii ranks 11th in the country for the percentage of teachers who are nationally board certified.

It can take anywhere from one to five years to achieve certification, but those who have crossed the finish line say the benefits are well worth the time and effort.

"I really am glad I did it, because it does make you reflect and be intentional in everything you do in the classroom to benefit the students, and I would encourage everyone to do it because it does help you grow, but it also helps validate how effective you are,” Trifonovitch said.

"For whatever reason you decide, it’s going to be beneficial once you go through process. It’s a lot of reflection so you find out a lot about yourself and about your teaching," Espiritu said.

"Undertaking this arduous process was a reflection of my dedication to my students. It was not easy, at times confusing and frustrating, coupled with anxiety, countless hours of writing, rewriting and studying. I analogize this process to climbing a precarious mountain of insecure footing—uphill climbs, jagged edges and slippery slopes with countless setbacks. But I’ve taught for over 30 years and knew I had to imbue a personal responsibility to set sights on the summit and not climb down until I reached the top."

— Claire Oshita, Kaewai Elementary

NBCTs in Hawaii’s public schools receive a $5,000 annual stipend for the life of the certificate. 

"Hawaii is a district that recognizes and rewards the efforts of our teachers this way," Trifonovitch said, "and it was a bigger pay raise you could get than any of the pay raises we’ve gotten with contracts, and you have to wait, and I know so many teachers that have part-time jobs. This is job-embedded, and you can have that income for five years.”

Click here for more information on the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

The following HIDOE teachers earned or renewed their certification: 

Hawaii Island

Julienne Arasato, Waiakea High
Shannon Jacob Kline, Konawaena High
Jacqueline Kubo Luna, Chiefess Kapiolani Elementary
Tracie Kuniyuki, Mountain View Elementary
Shelby Loo, Waimea Middle Public Charter School
Nauileiilima Murphy, Waimea Middle Public Charter School
Laurie O'Brien, Keaau High
Kerry Ogawa, Mountain View Elementary
Judah Plaut, Konawaena Middle
Hwa Hee Sohn, Chiefess Kapiolani Elementary
Samantha Tomori, Keaau Elementary
Heather Wickersham, Konawaena High


Brenda Barker, Kanuikapono Learning Center Public Charter School
Elizabeth Corrigan, King Kaumualii Elementary
Summer Holwegner, King Kaumualii Elementary
Denise Karratti, Kekaha Elementary
Peter Nash, Kauai High
Kathy Shibuya, King Kaumualii Elementary
Doreen Stone, King Kaumualii Elementary

Maui County

Mary Jean Bega, Pukalani Elementary
Lani Espinoza, Kihei Elementary
Andrea French, Hana High and Elementary
Jennifer Kaopua, Waihee Elementary
Greta Martinez Vides, Kualapuu Elementary Public Charter School
Teresa Rosario, Maui High
Kathleen Schaffer-Barr, Kihei Elementary
Rodney Wade, Kihei Elementary
Julia Wagner, Princess Nahienaena Elementary
Andrea Yuen, Kaunakakai Elementary


Shelly Andrews, Kailua High
Rachel-Leslie Arashiro, Lanakila Elementary
Lorna Baniaga-Lee, Campbell High
Kristen Brummel, Hawaii State Teacher Fellowship Program, Hope Street Group
Kimberly Celebre, Leilehua High
Leimomi Chun, Koko Head Elementary
Michelle Colte, Daniel K. Inouye Elementary
Lisa Espiritu, Nimitz Elementary
Laura Ginoza, Pearl City Elementary
Camille Hampton, Waianae High
Vanessa Hong Ching, Ewa Makai Middle
Lisa Hyatt, Kahuku High and Intermediate
Ryan Kanetani, Holomua Elementary
Mark Kurisu, Leilehua High
Kristina Lee, Moanalua Middle
Mae Masuda-Kop, Salt Lake Elementary 
Erin Mendelson, Central District Office
Derek Minakami, Kaneohe Elementary
Megan Moynihan, Kamaile Academy
Phyllis Nakama-Kawamoto, Executive Office on Early Learning
Kathleen Nullet, Kailua Intermediate
Claire Oshita, Kaewai Elementary
Melissa Padilla, Campbell High
Lory Peroff, Waikiki Elementary
Jillian Przygodzinski, Aliiolani Elementary
Michael Ericson Ragasa, Waikiki Elementary
Natalia Sandoval, Waikiki Elementary
Mary Shire, Aiea Intermediate
Lisa Staib, Kamaile Academy
Courtney Tawata, Kalihi Kai Elementary
Kathleen Trifonovitch, Maunawili Elementary
Liane Voss, Moanalua High
Emily Willis, Kailua Intermediate
Maile Yasui, Momilani Elementary