Thursday, August 01, 2019

Hundreds of faculty representatives learn how to better serve colleagues

HSTA's Summer Leadership Training prepares educators before many return to class

Click here to watch this video on YouTube.

Hundreds of faculty representatives from across the state spent two days last week learning new ways to serve their fellow union members during HSTA’s Summer Leadership Training (SLT).

HSTA Vice President Osa Tui Jr. said, ”We learned about the crisis of our teacher shortage, the benefits of membership, the protections through your contract, the functions of our union, the ways to improve your practice, the value of coming together.” 

Charlotte Menze, an elementary school counselor at Lanai School, said SLT is important because, “It’s nice to hear from other schools about their solutions, their problems. Maybe they have solutions that we need, maybe we have the solutions that they need.” 

Participants attended a wide array of 20 different breakout sessions, addressing everything from professional ethics for educators and supporting new educators to NEA Member Benefits, student loan relief, and jump-starting the National Board Certification process.

Some of the most popular breakouts covered contract basics, including salary, leave time, and teaching conditions.

“I really enjoyed learning about my contract, because I realize that I don’t know much about my contract and I don’t know if a lot of teachers do,” Menze said. “This helps you really understand and learn what your rights are and how you can better protect yourself.”

Rene Relacion, who teaches seventh-grade language arts at Kapaa Middle School on Kauai, said he takes his volunteer HSTA post as a grievance representative at the school seriously.

“I’ve seen good people burn out in the system and I’ve injustices done to students, done to fellow teachers," said Relacion, who has taught at Kapaa Middle for 21 years. “That’s not right, and so you want the best for them, the best for everybody. So you work toward that end and when it doesn’t happen, yeah, it adds to a little frustration and I guess it’s all mixed with that passion.”

HSTA Secretary-Treasurer Logan Okita generated applause from the group when she told them, “We ended last school year at just below our goal of 98-percent membership.”

Corey Rosenlee, president of the 13,700-member teachers’ union, spoke about how Hawaii’s teacher shortage crisis is shortchanging students with hundreds of unqualified teachers in classrooms across the state.

“You wouldn’t go into an operating room with a doctor and have a one-third chance that it’s just someone without a doctor’s license. You wouldn’t get a haircut from someone who doesn’t have a license. But we allow, day after day, for our children to not have access to qualified teachers, and that is something that must change,” Rosenlee said.

Some hard-to-staff schools in Hawaii have 30 percent or more who are unqualified, teaching out of their fields of expertise or in their first year of teaching, according to Rosenlee, meaning more than 60,000 students are not taught by qualified teachers annually.

Hawaii needs to focus on convincing more Hawaii-based educators to go into the profession, Rosenlee said.

He pointed to Department of Education figures, which show that 68 percent of the teachers from Hawaii hired in 2012 were still teaching as of 2018, while just 38 percent of the mainland teachers were still in Hawaii classrooms after that same six-year period.

Reading through a list of suggestions to end the teacher shortage submitted by SLT participants, Rosenlee highlighted a humorous idea during one session.

“How do we do a better job of recruitment? We have to get mainland teachers to marry locals. I really want the HSTA dating app,” he said as the crowd erupted in laughter.

Jade Pham, a special education teacher at Kaimuki High, addressed HSTA leaders as the two-day session came to a close.

”I really want to admire our HSTA leaders for focusing on growing our own teachers,” said Pham, who is teaching at her alma mater. “Because I am a local girl raised here in town, and I think it’s just so essential that we put a lot of our efforts into focusing on raising teachers who know the culture here and understand everything that we go through every day.”

Amanda Jiminez, head faculty representative at Lihikai Elementary on Maui, said, "Being on different islands, as well as different schools and different classrooms, I think most teachers, including me, often feel alone in their struggles. The HSTA SLT made me feel united with my fellow teachers across the state as I realized we face many of the same challenges (as well as experience many of the same successes). In the upcoming year, I hope to bring back this feeling of unity to the teachers at my school."

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Author: Keoki Kerr