UH West Oʻahu students, recent graduate to bring new perspectives back home

Three aspiring educators from the University of Hawaiʻi–West Oʻahu traveled to Philadelphia to learn more about the profession, connect with fellow educators from across the country, share the challenges they face, and discuss solutions.

Amanda Allgood, Joshua Kamalani, and Sarah Mark represented Hawaiʻi at a three-day NEA Aspiring Educator Conference, then joined the final day of the NEA Conference on Racial and Social Justice. Learn more about the NEA Aspiring Educators program here.

Mark says meeting NEA Aspiring Educators leader Jessica Bailey introduced her to a different Asian-American experience than her own. Bailey, a Shenandoah University student, shared how being bullied as a Korean-American child growing up in Virginia stripped her of a valuable part of her identity — one she was only able to regain as an adult.

Mark said, “It’s interesting to come to a conference on this big scale and hear from other individuals who weren’t accepted into the space that they were in growing up because of the nationality, their race, the color of their skin, the way that they look like, and then to be able to talk and share experiences and hear from one another. That was really eye-opening.”

Mark recently graduated from UH West-Oʻahu and will consider this perspective as she begins her first year teaching kindergarten at Nānākuli Elementary.

“I think as a teacher, it’s very important that we create that safe space for our students; and no matter their background, their upbringing, where they come from, what their home life is, that we create that space for them from the time school starts to when it ends, and even after,” she said.

UH West Oʻahu student Joshua Kamalani enjoyed connecting with fellow educators and learning about their advocacy work. “Even in Hawaiʻi, a lot of our voices aren’t being heard. Something that we’re really trying to push in my program specifically, we’re trying to push the growth of Hawaiian teaching within the classroom — not only just learning about the culture, but integrating our culture into our classroom,” he said.

“In some classrooms, teachers are not allowed to develop their own lesson plans or how they want to teach, and that takes away from our ability to connect with students,” said Kamalani, who is Hawaiian and Filipino. “I want lessons to be impactful for the students. I want it to relate to them. I want it to not only leave an impact on them as people of color, people of different ethnicities, people of different races, different cultures. How can I get them involved with their education and learn through who they are? I believe that’s the best way to learn.”

Fellow UH West Oʻahu student Amanda Allgood found the conferences incredibly valuable, not just for her professional development but also for her introduction to the union and its benefits.

“I actually wasn’t that aware of everything NEA has to offer. I only became a member for the liability insurance,” she said. “Now I know so much more about what NEA can do, for not just myself, but for my colleagues, and how it can help support me as a teacher. So I’m pretty excited to kind of dive into all these different things.”

Allgood added, “I didn’t know that they had social-emotional, so much professional development. There’s just so much to it that I wasn’t aware of. So I think this has been really great and really eye-opening, not just for myself, but for what we can do in the future.”

Featured photo from left: Amanda Allgood, Joshua Kamalani, Sarah Mark