Special interest group aims to embody, share Hawaiian values, culture

Hawaiʻi State Teachers Association Windward Chapter member Kana Naipo wants everyone, especially those outside Hawaiʻi, to know that aloha is more than just a greeting. He started the Aloha Caucus last year as a way to share the spirit and knowledge of aloha throughout the National Education Association, HSTA’s parent union.

“For me, aloha is a way of life. It’s a being, a state of mind where you live in peace and harmony with others, your family, with the ʻāina, with the land. That’s what aloha is,” said Naipo, who teaches modern Hawaiian history and participation in democracy at Castle High School. “I had this deep feeling in me that I wanted to bring forth something from Hawaiʻi, and I wanted to do it where it encapsulated some of our Hawaiian values and culture that we implement in our classrooms, that many of our indigenous people believe that we can share with the world.”

NEA caucuses are interest groups that are recognized by the NEA, but independently funded and run by NEA members. The Aloha Caucus has more than 100 members so far, and membership is free.

“We’re not soliciting or selling any items. Everything we get is free. Part of the bylaws in our caucus is that aloha ain’t for sale. It is something that should be given freely without any expectations. I think that’s the beauty and the power of our aloha, that we take a sense of responsibility for ourselves, our loved ones, and our youth and our students and our community.”

During the NEA Representative Assembly in Philadelphia, Naipo and fellow Aloha Caucus members are handing out stickers to build awareness and membership, especially among educators from other states. Members who sign up will have the chance to win one of three lei poʻo made of artificial foliage by caucus member Ashley Monden, HSTA Central Chapter member and Mililani Mauka Elementary 5th grade special education resource teacher.

The NEA has an Asian and Pacific Islander Caucus that works to spread awareness and uplift Asian and Pacific Islander communities, and contributes to the NEA’s Ethnic Minority Affairs Committee.

But Naipo wanted to create a caucus that is uniquely Hawaiʻi and reflects practices “applied in our classrooms right now through the HĀ system framework (in the Hawaiʻi State Department of Education to honor the qualities and values of the indigenous language and culture of Hawaiʻi) — sense of responsibility and place, a sense of aloha.

“I want the rest of our nation to see Hawaiʻi for its true beauty and its nature and its form, everything about us. I want them to see the real Hawaiʻi, not the commercialized version,” Naipo said.