Thursday, July 25, 2019

Teachers reunite at HSTA's 2019 summer leadership training

SLT allows members to connect and, for some, reunite

Click here to watch this video on YouTube.

Hundreds of Hawaii State Teachers Association members gathered at the Hawaii Convention Center this week for summer leadership training.

For these educators, SLT provides an opportunity to learn new skills, discover new ways to serve fellow members, and discuss key issues facing teachers today in and out of the classroom.

There were at least two examples of multi-generational teacher leaders at SLT this year, with teachers and their former students participating as colleagues.

And one pair experienced an unexpected, added benefit.

Kaimuki High School teacher Jade Pham is about to enter her third year of teaching. As a school level leader, Pham says she was "super excited about being involved with HSTA and growing closer to my colleagues who are passionate about advocating for teachers and students."

She didn't expect her first-grade teacher, Suanne Kim of Palolo Elementary, to be one of them.

"I just went up to her and I was like, 'Do you remember me?' and she's like, 'Yes, of course!'" Pham said.

"Of course, I didn't recognize her," Kim said with a smile. "My first-grade memories of Jade were 18 years ago, I don't know how long ago, but it was a surprise, and it's so nice to reconnect with her."

Pham says a gesture by Kim made a profound impact.

"The most prominent memory I have from the first grade was during photo-taking time," she said. "At that point in the year we were taking first-grade photos, and my parents couldn't afford a deluxe package, so we kind of just bought a basic, four-by-six photo, and when it came time for the day to get our pictures, I actually had a whole package, and I was like, 'I didn't pay for this.' Miss Kim had actually bought it for me. She doesn't really remember this, but what she thought was a small gesture was something that really made a difference for me at the time. I truly felt loved by my teacher."

Kim said, "It's such a pleasure to see Jade teaching now. She's a poster child of the Palolo pipeline. She really is."

"I definitely feel like I came full circle," Pham said. "I definitely feel like I'm exactly where I am."

Rene Relacion, a seventh-grade language arts teacher at Kapaa Middle School on Kauai, attended SLT along with his former student, Martin Antonio, who now teaches social studies at Kapaa High School.

Relacion, who has taught at the same school for 21 years, said of attending SLT with Antonio, “I’m proud and I’m touched that I had the opportunity to influence him, and I have his son in my class and there’s some continuity, and maybe that’s part of the passion. You’re continuing something worthwhile.”

Antonio, who plans to become a faculty representative at Kapaa High, was a student in Relacion’s class when he felt vulnerable after transferring from a different district.

“Everything was new for me. I always felt like an outsider. But then, in Mr. Relacion’s class, I always had a feeling of belonging,” Antonio recalled.

“If I can become half as good a teacher as Mr. Relacion was for me, I would feel I’m worthwhile and I’ve given back to the community that’s raised me,” Antonio added.