Reminiscing About Joan Lee Husted’s Many Contributions

November 16, 2023

Joan Lee Husted

December 31, 1937 – October 2, 2023


The Hawaii Education Association is sad to report the loss of Joan Lee Husted, HEA’s Vice President, who tirelessly dedicated more than 40 years of her life to elevating the teaching profession and the role of Hawaii’s teachers and improving the quality of education for students. She passed away on October 2, 2023 in her home. She was 85 years old.

Joan, affectionately referred to as the “strike lady,” served with the Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA) for 36 years, seven of those years as its executive director. She will also always be remembered for her diehard efforts and advocacy on behalf of Hawaii teachers.


Never Intended to be a Teacher

Many may be surprised to learn that Joan never intended to become a teacher. In a 2008 MidWeek cover story, she said that while growing up in Michigan, Joan vowed to never be a teacher like her mother. “I watched her work, and I said, ‘Not for me.’” However, after receiving a master’s degree from the University of Michigan, she discovered the doors were not open for women in philosophy.

Her tenacity and perseverance stemmed from the connection she saw between public education and the overall wellbeing of Hawaii.


Education and our Economy

“If public education doesn’t survive, our economy doesn’t survive, our state doesn’t survive,” she said.  One of Joan’s first assignments as a teacher was at the newly opened King Intermediate School in 1966. She loved the school, her colleagues and her students, but was perturbed that teachers and students had to end their school day 20 minutes early every day to clean their classrooms because the schools did not hire custodians.

When HSTA learned about her collective bargaining experience, she was invited to join the union. As the union’s chief negotiator beginning in 1972, teachers made great strides in fair treatment and better working conditions. They no longer had to clean their own classrooms, and could have paid maternity leave, paid lunch breaks, their own mediation program and other benefits. Joan retired from HSTA in December 2007 at age 70 after serving for 36 years.


A Never-Ending Commitment

But even in retirement, Joan continued to serve others. She led HEA in various leadership roles as a board member, vice president, executive committee member, and chairperson of the personnel committee. She also served as president of HEA Insurance Agency, Inc. and vice president of the Education Institute of Hawaii.

“Her friendship, her intellect, and her fierce advocacy for Hawai’i’s teachers, educators, schools and, most especially, Hawaii’s schoolchildren, will live on in the hearts of those influenced by her tireless efforts,” said Joan Lewis, HEA’s president. “The HEA is proud to have been beneficiaries of Joan’s expertise, commitment, and generous service. We will miss her immensely, but we will always remember her work and the example she left us to follow.”

“Joan’s pioneering work in Hawai’i’s labor relations history, especially as it relates to the development of the Hawai’i State Teachers’ Collective Bargaining Agreement, is one of the enduring contributions she made while serving as chief negotiator and executive director for HSTA. This continues to be a living legacy for us all,” Lewis added.

June Motokawa, past HEA president and former HSTA president said: “I have so much love and respect for that woman, that leader.”

“For Joan it wasn’t just about salary and working conditions, it was for the whole teacher,” June added, noting that as a labor leader, Husted was especially skilled in negotiations and she could recite education and collective bargaining laws from memory.


Influence Beyond Hawaii

Husted’s work and influence also extended to the national educational scene as a commissioner on the Education Commission of States, National Education Association committees, and the American Arbitration Association.

She is survived by her daughter Tina, and son-in-law Rodney Lacy, Sr., her two grandchildren and a great-grandson, and her brother Harry Robert Husted of Texas.




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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It is never easy to say aloha to a friend and respected colleague. Joan Lee Husted’s loss affects everyone — far beyond Hawaii’s education community. She made a tremendous impact in the lives of so many and paved new paths for teachers, women leaders, and labor. She was a formidable force that has left a lasting impression on so many of us. Her integrity and straightforwardness were always refreshing and I believe her example will serve as an inspiration for others. Her influence will definitely be felt for generations to come.