Sarah Kern

7th Grade Teacher

Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School


Sarah Kern knew she was going to be a teacher as a 5-year-old, when she would line up all her stuffed animals and pretend to give them lessons.

“I’ve always had it in my heart to become a teacher,” said Sarah, a 7th grade science teacher at Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School in Lihue on the island of Kauai.

Sarah received scholarships from HEA during each of her four years as an undergraduate majoring in biology at Tufts University

“HEA was really instrumental in my college career,” Sarah said. “I’m really grateful to them for helping me get through college.”

It was Sarah’s grandmother, Ruth Khiem, who first suggested that she apply for an HEA scholarship. Ruth played several key roles with HEA after joining in 1968. She served on the HEA Board of Trustees as a representative from the University of Hawaii from 2004-2013. A passionate, lifelong educator herself, Ruth supervised the teacher program at the UH College of Education for more than a decade.

Two of Ruth’s sisters – Rose Yim and Elizabeth Hall – were also teachers as was Ruth’s youngest daughter, Kathy Matsuo, who is Sarah’s aunt.
Although Sarah did not major or minor in education, she prepared for her future in the classroom through the nonprofit Teach For America program. That allowed her to receive a degree in education while actively teaching. She later earned a master’s degree in secondary education from Johns Hopkins University.

Sarah points to Ms. Janelle Ling, her AP biology teacher at Kaiser High School, as the educator who inspired her most and had the greatest influence on her.

“She had really high expectations of us as students. You were not allowed to be lazy in her class. And if you were, you would hear from her about it. She could tell whether you were giving your full effort or not.

“Ms. Ling helped to solidify a strong sense of ambition in me to do my best all the time,” Sarah said.

The forming of strong relationships with her students is her favorite part of the job as an educator, Sarah said.

“We feed off each other and that’s the best part about being a teacher. There’s never a boring day. I’ve never gone home from work and said ‘today was boring’ – ever. And I don’t think I ever will.”



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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