August 15, 2022

HEA Awards More Than $20,000 in Scholarships


The Hawaii Education Association (HEA) recently awarded a total of $21,500 in scholarships to 17 individuals at various stages of their teaching careers, from high school graduates who are just entering college to experienced educators pursuing additional education to broaden their capabilities.

“It’s exciting to see so many outstanding individuals who are so passionate about the teaching profession,” said Joan Lewis, HEA president. “Educators touch the lives of so many students in our state. Our scholarships are an investment that multiplies in our community.”

HEA awarded five scholarships to recent high school graduates, three to continuing college students, and nine scholarships to educators. Congratulations!

Two $2,000 Graduating High School Senior Scholarships

Micah Domingo
Grandson of HEA member Karen Pescador
Mililani High School

Micah Domingo, a Mililani High School graduate, and grandson of HEA member Karen Pescador, received a $2,000 HEA scholarship to help his career literally get off the ground and soar to new heights.

His scholarship helps pay for his tuition at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, where he is majoring in aviation studies, with a focus on flight technology and operations this fall.

Teaching is Micah’s passion. His dream is to become a commercial airline pilot and return home as a certified flight instructor to teach Hawaii students how to fly. Micah says the scholarship is helpful because professional pilot programs require mandatory flight time, an expense on top of tuition.

Shayne Shibuya
Son of HEA member Kathy Shibuya
Kauai High School

Shayne Shibuya, a graduate of Kauai High School in Lihue and son of HEA member Kathy Shibuya, wants to be a radiologist. His $2,000 HEA scholarship is helping with his undergraduate tuition at George Mason University in Fairfax County, Virginia, where he is a biology/pre-medicine major.

“As a radiologist, I would find great satisfaction in not only my work, but also in helping others in need,” Shayne wrote in his application. “This job will require many years of schooling, which means that I’ll have a higher amount to pay in tuition and fees. This scholarship helps to offset that cost and bring me one step closer to achieving my aspirations.”

Three Recipients of the $500 Teaching As A Career Club (TAAC) and Career and Technical Education (CTE) Pathway High School Senior Scholarships, jointly sponsored by Pi Lambda Theta-Beta Zeta

Schools that have a Teaching As A Career club on their campus or are a Hawaii Department of Education school that offers a Career and Technical Education pathway and previously received an HEA grant were eligible to elect a high school senior for an HEA scholarship. These scholarships are funded in part from Pi Lambda Theta-Beta Zeta Hawaii Chapter, the group previously for university students majoring in education.

HannahMarie Tokiwa
Pearl City High School

HannahMarie Tokiwa, a Pearl City High School graduate, knew she wanted to be a teacher since she was nine. The $500 HEA scholarship is helping her realize her dream as she enters Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia, this fall.

“I realized how much my teacher had done for my peers and me. She showed me a book series that is still my favorite today, and her encouragement led me to take up reading as a hobby,” HannahMarie recalls. “She showed me how fun science could be during an afterschool program on simple forensic science such as fingerprints and shoe print plasters.”

She said the scholarship allows her to devote her time to volunteer opportunities and internships to make the most out of her college experience.

Serenity Coloma-Espiritu
Farrington High School

Farrington High School graduate Serenity Coloma-Espiritu is attending the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa this fall to be a teacher. The $500 HEA scholarship is helping her obtain a bachelor’s degree in elementary education.

“I experienced lessons with high schoolers and was a teacher assistant for Kapalama elementary and had an epiphany: I want to be a teacher,” Serenity said. “I want to be a teacher, a person that changes the lives of students and creates core memories in the classroom… I want elementary school students to go into middle school and high school with a good mindset to make the best of school and will learn more.”

Aiden Galiza
Leilehua High School

Aiden Galiza, a Leilehua High School graduate who had been taking the teaching as a profession pathway CTE pathway at school, has always wanted to be a teacher.

“Since I was a child, I have always dreamed of one day being able to teach in my own classroom,” he said. “Surrounded by both fictional like Ms. Frizzle from The Magic School Bus and real-life mentor figures like Mrs. Abe, Senora Aguirre and others throughout my childhood have reinforced my love for this profession and continue to fuel my desire to become a teacher.”

With the $500 HEA scholarship to help with his tuition, Aiden is starting college at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona, and majoring in psychology and minoring in education.

$2,000 Hiroshi & Barbara Kim Yamashita HEA Scholarship

Chaeyoon Cho
University of Hawaii at Manoa

While attending Kapiolani Community College (KCC) to study psychology, Chaeyoon Cho discovered her calling to be a teacher by serving as a tutor and mentor at the following learning centers: Tutor Doctor Hawaii, Sylvan Learning Center, and Hawaii Palms English School.

“While working with a diverse range of students from preschool through college, I found my passion in teaching and now am majoring in elementary education and early childhood (at the University of Hawaii – Manoa),” she said.

Chaeyoon said the $2,000 HEA scholarship is helping with her education, as she juggles work and school while also caring for her aging parents.

Two $2,000 Student Teacher Scholarships, sponsored by Helen MacKay Memorial

Lacey Alvarez
University of Hawaii at Manoa

Working with children from preschool to the fifth grade over the past eight years has shown Lacey Alvarez something about herself:  “I was able to see the difference and impact I make in the lives of children with disabilities. It has been a very rewarding experience as I see students reach goals that others may have thought they would never overcome,” Lacey said. “I knew I wanted to continue making a difference in the lives of children by helping them reach goals of their own and by giving them the support they needed to succeed.”

The resident of Kealakekua on the Kona Coast of Hawai‘i Island is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in early elementary/special education from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa and the $2,000 HEA scholarship will help with tuition. She was the lead teacher at Creative Day Preschool for four years, and has been serving as an educational assistant at Holualoa Elementary School for the past four years, working with children with learning disabilities or may need more support while in the classroom.

Tiana Mahi
University of Hawaii at Manoa

Tiana Mahi, a junior at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa College of Education, is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and eventually plans to obtain a master’s degree in education. She has been a student teacher for the past two years. She worked with third-graders at Kainalu Elementary last year and kindergarteners at Ala Wai Elementary this past spring semester.

“I entered the field of education because my teachers left a major impact on my life and I would not be the person I am today without their influence,” she said. “This inspired me to want to be able to have this impact on students because it would be such a rewarding feeling to help others grow into their best selves.”

Seven Recipients of the Ronald K. Toma Scholarships (Professional Development for In-Service Public School Educators), ranging from $390 to $1,000 awards

Chayanee Brooks
Kaū High & Pahala Elementary School

Chayanee Brooks, who has taught advanced placement English for high school students at Kaū High & Pahala Elementary School since 2013, is pursuing a doctoral degree in neuroscience at the Institute of Molecular Biosciences, Mahidol University, a research institution in Bangkok, Thailand, to understand “diverse neural network connectivity” to better serve students. She is paying for her own education and the HEA scholarship provides welcome support.

“Through the program in neuroscience, I will gain more insights that help me to improve my instructional practices and leadership by understanding my students’ brain function as well as the pathology of disorders better,” she said. “The understanding of neural brain development, executive function, and self­-regulation are essential to student learning, so each course has immediate implications and impacts on my planning as a teacher. I see neurodevelopmental and psychological development as critical factors in planning instruction and making an impact in my students’ growth and development.”

David Brooks
Kaū High & Pahala Elementary School

David Brooks, who has been an advanced placement social studies teacher at Kaū High & Pahala Elementary School since 2013, is pursuing a master’s degreee in Asian studies online at Mahidol University, in Bangkok, Thailand. He is developing lesson plans for courses as part of his coursework. With the support of the HEA grant, he will do research and write a master’s thesis aligned with his teaching.

“Asian studies, human geography, economics, world history, and global studies classes all will use social, political, and economic content in their curriculums, and my research focus will be intentionally chosen to use in the classroom and to share with other social studies teachers in Hawaii and across the U.S,” David explained.

Donna Kawasaki
Waiahole Elementary School

Since 2016, Donna Kawasaki, has been a teacher and academic coach at Waiahole Elementary School, where about 70% of the students are Native Hawaiian. She has been able to identify ways to enhance learning.

“At Waiahole Elementary, we have been implementing project-based learning for the past three years to address the multiple needs of our students. Our campus is located between two lush green valleys and is in the perfect location to move learning beyond the four walls of the classroom,” Donna said. “While a few of our teachers have tried to incorporate the outdoors into their unit plans, I feel there could be so many more ways to expand learning into the outdoor environment.”

Donna will use her HEA scholarship to attend next year’s Outdoor Learning Conference, presented by Take Me Outside, a nonprofit organization that strives to make connections between nature and outdoor learning at schools and recognizes the contributions of indigenous cultures.

“Their ultimate goal is to extend beyond the four walls of a classroom and to spend more time outside to counter excessive screen time and sedentary lifestyles,” Donna said. She noted that the conference will offer opportunities to learn about the different outdoor learning projects, activities, and strategies that other educators have implemented at their schools and how they incorporate indigenous culture into their outdoor learning curriculum so that she can
share those ideas with other teachers to plan and implement those ideas at Waiahole Elementary.

Donna Soriano
Waianae High School

Donna Soriano, a STEM teacher at Waianae Elementary School since 2014, and a place-based afterschool literacy support teacher with the Research Corporation of the University of Hawaii, used her HEA scholarship to attend the ISTELive 23 conference in Philadelphia this past June to learn what’s next in education. ISTELive 23 will provide opportunities for professional development, networking opportunities, access to cutting-edge technology, and exposure to new pedagogical approaches, which aligns with Waianae Elementary School’s overall academic plan.

“I’m excited to learn how to use the technology we have to make my classroom even more student-focused through approaches like project-based learning and groundbreaking collaboration methods,” Donna wrote in her scholarship application. “Attending workshops, sessions, and keynote speeches on the latest trends, techniques, and best practices in the use of technology in education will help me stay current and improve my skills, which in turn will benefit the students at Wai’anae Elementary.”

Kelly Komoda
Jefferson High School

Kelly Komoda, who has been a fifth-grade teacher at Jefferson Elementary School since 1999, will be taking courses to teach English Language Learners (ELL) to those students whose native language is not English. He plans to take the courses at Kapiolani Community College. This scholarship will help meet Jefferson Elementary’s academic plan for all teachers to earn credits in teaching ELL

Kelly is also taking an introduction to Hawaiian culture course to reinforce the “HA” initiative and principles of ALOHA (Akahai, Lōkahi, ‘Olu‘olu, Ha‘aha‘a, and Ahonui) that are embedded within Jefferson Elementary’s curriculum. He is also taking a wellness course to better understand how fitness affects emotional health and wellness to follow the state’s emphasis on social­-emotional learning.

Leslie Frasier
Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School

Leslie Frasier, an art teacher at Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School in Līhue, Kauai, since 2013, will use her HEA scholarship to cover some of the expenses to attend the 2024 National Art Education Associaton (NAEA) national convention in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in April 2024.

“As an art educator in Hawaii, professional development opportunities are non-existent and opportunities to collaborate with other art teachers do not exist….It would be incredibly beneficial for me to be able to take workshops, collaborate with other art educators, and experience what other art educators are doing to create lasting and meaningful National Core Arts standards-based curriculum for their students. I would then be able to bring my new-found knowledge back to my art colleagues at my school.”

Michelle Pieper
Nanakuli High & Intermediate School

Michelle Pieper, a teacher at Nanakuli High & Intermediate School since 2014, started her own non-profit organization, Hānai Kaiāulu, to care for the cultural spaces that were not being tended to during the COVID lockdown. She turned the lockdown into an opportunity to learn about composting and carbon abatement which led to her interest in bokashi, a Japanese method of composting using the liquid or “tea” from fermented fruits and vegetables.

She entered their bokashi project in the American Saving Bank Keikico competition and won first place with a prize of $25,000.

The HEA scholarship helps her to take a sabbatical, so that she can devote her undivided attention to develop an outline for a bokashi handbook, which will be shared with other teachers in Hawaii and the West Coast. The handbook will not only serves as a practical instructional manual, but also as a way to preserve Native Hawaiian culture and values.

Two $2,000 HEA In-Service Educators Scholarship Recipients

Evelyn Utai
Farrington High School

Evelyn Utai has served as an educational assistant at Farrington High School, her alma mater, for over a decade, but she wants to continue her education to expand her capacity to serve. She earned an associate degree from Windward Community College but would like to pursue a bachelor’s degree in special education at Leeward Community College.

She is driven by a Samoan proverb: “Tautua nei mo sou manuia a taeao,” which can be translated, “Serve now for a better tomorrow.”

“My interest in working with students with disabilities stems from my experience with Special Olympics,” Evelyn explained. “This program has developed a framework for my future career aspirations by observing how not only the faculty can make a difference in these students’ lives, but also how the teachers facilitate an environment that promotes the integration between students with and without disabilities.”

“Through mainstreaming these students, being an educational assistant at Farrington High School showed me the difference I could make in the world by combining my passion for teaching and the place students with disabilities hold in my heart,” she added.

Kristen Ono
Princess Ruth Ke‘elikolani Middle School

Kristen Ono wrapped up her year as a Hawaii Certification Institute for School Leaders (HICISL) vice principal at Princess Ruth Ke‘elikolani Middle School in June 2023 and would like to continue to serve as an administrator at the school.

Kristen plans to take three classes to finish the requirements to earn a master of education degree in educational leadership from Chaminade University by December 2023 to complement her Ph.D. in educational foundations that she earned from the University of Hawaii at Mānoa in 2014. She previously had been a curriculum coordinator and science teacher at McKinley High School and Radford High School.

“Enrolling and excelling in school has enhanced my ability to engage in an active role in improving my future career as well as my community,” she wrote in her scholarship application.

Visit our Scholarships section to learn more about our scholarships for current and aspiring educators.



Share your story with us! Our teachers are a great source of encouragement, inspiration and positive life transformations. Many of us have had a teacher who has made a major impact on our lives or helped us to simply do better.

HEA wants to showcase testimonials about amazing teachers to highlight the importance of our local educators. These stories will be featured throughout our website, newsletter and social media in 2021 as part of HEA’s 100th anniversary celebration.


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