Kai Phung calls HSTA, Autosource grand prize ‘a huge blessing’ for his family

Highlands Intermediate teacher Kai Phung started his 2024 Teacher Appreciation Week in high gear.

On Sunday, the social studies teacher received the keys to a pre-owned 2021 Volkswagen Tiguan that is his to drive for a year, a grand prize courtesy of the Hawaiʻi State Teachers Association and Autosource to celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week.

Phung says the vehicle is “a huge blessing” for his family. His wife, Cari, and two daughters, Norah, 3, and Jorie, 1, joined him for the reveal.

“We only have one car right now, and it works. My wife and I, we’re able to share a car and carpool,” Phung said, “but having a second car definitely makes it so when my wife has errands to do and other things, then it’s not an inconvenience.”

Through the dealership’s Carousel program, Phung will only be responsible for paying his insurance and gas; Autosource covers everything else, including service, maintenance, registration, and safety checks.

“Just a big mahalo to everybody that’s been involved in this process,” Phung said. “We’re very grateful.”

During the month of April, teachers across the state submitted short videos explaining why they like teaching in Hawaiʻi and a story about their first car. In his submission, Phung said:

“What I love about teaching in Hawaiʻi is we have one of the most beautiful and diverse student bodies in the world. I love being able to teach students from so many different cultures and backgrounds and, especially as I teach social studies, I’m learning about those different backgrounds through Hawaiian and Pacific Island history, and helping them to gain an appreciation for that. That’s what I love about it.

“Quick story about my first car, (it) was a Nissan Frontier, an older version, and we bought ‘em used and in the back had these big old subwoofer bass so that you could play the music real loud kine, but I needed the back seat so that I could drive my brothers. So we had to take those out and I gave them to a friend, so it’s kind of funny. I could have had some mean bass in my first car if needed.”

HSTA President Osa Tui, Jr. said, “It really warms my heart. So many of our teachers struggle to get around to work or to allow their family to get around to things that they need to, and knowing that this is going to help his family is really a great thing.”

Autosource Carousel leasing manager Maureen O’Malley said, “There’s just never enough that we can do to appreciate our teachers. It is one of the hardest, most thankless jobs, and one of the most important as far as just building a community that’s going to grow and just take over, so it’s so important.

“This is just a great way for us to give back and do something nice for a teacher. I wish we could do it for every teacher, but we’re very grateful that we have this opportunity,” O’Malley said.

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week

Phung, who is in his third year of teaching, says Teacher Appreciation Week “caught me by surprise a little bit when I first became a teacher. I didn’t realize that we had that week. That was really so meaningful for us as teachers.”

He says the best part of this week is getting notes from his students.

“I save all the notes that I get,” Phung said, “and when you have the tough days, then I like to look at those again, take them out, see what they’ve said, and it gives me a lot of motivation to keep going.”

Several businesses in Hawaiʻi are showing their appreciation for educators during 2024 Teacher Appreciation Week, May 6–10, with special freebies and discounts.

Exclusive vehicle offer for HSTA members

Autosource is Hawaiʻi’s largest independently owned pre-owned automobile dealership. Autosource will pay the first two car payments for any HSTA member on Oʻahu who joins the Carousel subscription vehicle program. Carousel covers service, maintenance, registration, and safety checks; you provide the insurance and pay for gas.

With Carousel, you can:

  • Exchange your vehicle every six months if desired.
  • Turn in vehicles at any time, such as summer and winter breaks, and suspend your payments during that time.
  • Restart subscription and payments upon returning to the island.