HSTA’s teacher advocates successfully push for more time during pandemic

The pandemic presented an added layer of stress for teachers across the state who, on top of the many challenges that accompany working with a population that has such specific needs, had scrambled to meet the Hawaii Department of Education’s (HIDOE) Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) sheltered instruction mandate. That mandate gave teachers three years from the end of this school year to obtain a minimum of six TESOL-related course credits or the equivalent.

In an effort to improve things in the classroom for educators, HSTA Joint EL Committee members Tanya Mau and Jill Tung-Loong have powered through the pandemic to advocate for their colleagues and meet with the HIDOE as mandated in HSTA’s contract. Mau is a state resource teacher with the Hawaii Teacher Induction Center and Tung-Loong is a teacher at Waiakea Elementary School in Hilo.

Aside from the severe impacts the pandemic had on course offerings, HSTA Joint EL committee members explained to the employer that teachers faced overload in the past year and focused on providing quality education while adjusting to a new learning environment. Mau and Tung-Loong’s advocacy at the table paid off when the HIDOE last week committed to extending the deadline an additional year for teachers to complete TESOL sheltered instruction credits.

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While HSTA Joint EL committee members recognize many questions remain about what happens at the end of the three-year timeline if teachers are unable to obtain the sheltered instruction credits, discussions incorporated feedback from members to center on creative ways to earn those credits. In response to proposals on alternate avenues to meet the TESOL sheltered instruction requirement, HIDOE emphasized the need to carefully review each proposal for efficacy (particularly whether there was an anticipated outcome marking an overall improvement upon instructional programming).

HSTA member feedback confirms sheltered instruction credits represent just the beginning of challenges for teachers – general education, special education, and those serving in EL-specific roles. Both Tung-Loong and Mau expressed on numerous occasions a desire to increase member voice at the table and have found innovative ways to do so through the recent EL survey and listening sessions during Institute Week.

In its last meeting on March 2, the committee presented data from HSTA’s survey as well as feedback from listening sessions in support of contract proposals forwarded to HSTA’s Negotiating Committee for bargaining on our next contract that expires June 30. HSTA EL Committee members reviewed those proposals with their employer counterparts and expressed a general disappointment that there was no proposal in the employer’s negotiations package to renew the memorandum of understanding (MOU) in our contract establishing the Joint EL Committee.

Click to view HSTA’s proposal #32 about improvements for English learner teachers in HSTA’s proposed contract language. You must be logged in as a registered user of our website with password access to read these proposals.

The final meeting of the school year with this committee underscored a need for continued discussion as we have only just begun to discuss the valuable data that sparked talks over ensuring EL-specific funding focuses on EL programming at the school level. Understanding the battles our negotiating team underwent in the past year to establish safety protections for teachers and students during the COVID-19 crisis and the challenges the Negotiations Team faces during the economic downturn to protect and build upon benefits won in years past, the HSTA asked our employer counterparts to use any influence they have on their side to encourage the continuation of the MOU.

Whether we are able to achieve a successor agreement that includes language supporting the continuation of a Joint EL Committee, HSTA leadership is committed to tackling the challenges in this area. Our President-Elect Osa Tui Jr., Vice President-Elect Logan Okita, and Secretary-Treasurer-Elect Lisa Morrison have already expressed their commitment to pushing ahead on our side—reaching out to committee members in response to member feedback gathered and creating a plan of action going forward with EL.

View survey results