Natanya Friedheim

Former student of Ms. Alexandra (Armstrong) Taylor

Kailua Intermediate School

One of Natanya Friedheim’s goals as a teacher is to instill in her Kalani High School students a love of reading.

Natanya said she received that gift from Ms. Alexandra (Armstrong) Taylor, her English teacher at Kailua Intermediate School.

“When I started in 7th grade, I wasn’t a reader, and I couldn’t see myself as someone who could enjoy reading books,” Natanya said. And while Ms. Taylor taught many classics in the classroom, one day she suggested to a bored Natanya that she read a book from The Clique series, “one of the silliest, most superficial pre-teen novels you could think of.”

But Natanya ended up devouring the series, and before long, she was reading more substantive books.

Natanya said she finds it remarkable that Ms. Taylor, now a teacher at Hawaii Baptist Academy, was able to spark that interest in her and others. “To take students who don’t like to read, and then switch that, I think it’s really difficult to do. If I could get my kids to be readers – that would be a huge success for me.”

Nantanya has learned in recent years that Ms. Taylor has a reputation for inspiring her students to reach greater heights, including others who have gone into the education field.

She said that enthusiasm Ms. Taylor showed with her students is yet another lesson learned that she is incorporating into the environment of her own classroom.

“She made the classroom into an inviting space for learning,” she said. “You just wanted to be there.”

After a detour as a news reporter, Natanya decided to return to her first love. She credits winning a student-teacher scholarship from the Hawaii Education Association as a huge financial lift.

“It’s difficult to work a job and be a student-teacher,” Natanya said.

Natanya is leaping into full-time teaching this spring while she’s finishing her master’s degree work in education with a focus on special education from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

“My research is really in supporting students who have disabilities in becoming better writers and being less intimidated by writing. People have differences and those differences aren’t a deficit, they’re not a bad thing. And when I saw how this school (Kalani) really embraces inclusion, I thought this is great, this is amazing, this is how schools should be.”

Natanya said she’s found teaching to be fulfilling and fun, and she encourages others to consider an education career. “Every day I feel like the work that I’m doing is making a positive impact. We get to see the impact we make and that’s rewarding.”

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