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Stories About Hawaii Educators

Watch and read stories about the life-changing impact of local teachers and professors.

Kevin Matsunaga

Kevin Matsunaga

It can’t just be about the deadline. It can’t just be about the letter grade. I’m talking about investing in students.

Digital Media Teacher

Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School

Jessica Pagtulingan

Jessica Pagtulingan

Mrs. Lori Fujimoto was able to see me and my classmates for who we were, and she encouraged each and every one of us to be better.

Former student of Mrs. Lori Fujimoto

Kapalama Elementary School

Nicole Tam

Nicole Tam

Ms. Murayama pushed me to challenge myself and take an advanced English course even though it was out of my comfort zone because English is my second language.

Former Student of Shareen Murayama

Kaiser High School

Natanya Friedheim

Natanya Friedheim

Ms. Alexandra (Armstrong) Taylor made the classroom into an inviting space for learning. You just wanted to be there.

Former student of Ms. Alexandra (Armstrong) Taylor

Kailua Intermediate School

Yunji de Nies

Yunji de Nies

I was an outspoken, loud and energetic child. And rather than quash that … he really cultivated it and he encouraged my interest in theater and in speech, and in being on stage.

Former student of Mr. Colin More

Honolulu Waldorf School

Tord “Harald” Ivarsson

Tord “Harald” Ivarsson

I had a vision of what a teacher can create in the classroom. Having children explore skills within themselves, I think that’s inspiring.

2021 Hiroshi & Barbara Kim Yamashita HEA Scholarship Recipient

Kapiolani Community College

JoAnn Oshiro

JoAnn Oshiro

I just enjoy making connection with students. I think that was the same with Mr. Ginoza and maybe he modeled that for me in my career.

Former student of Mr. Edwin Ginoza

Maui High School

Holden Suzuki

Holden Suzuki

I know for a fact that teachers are some of the hardest-working people on the planet and they really make an effort to connect with you.

8th Grade Student

Maui Waena Intermediate School

Ben Cayetano

Ben Cayetano

We could tell Mr. Higa was devoted to his work. His character just came through and that’s why the students really liked him. He had the ability to inspire his students to do their best.

Former student of Howard Higa

Kalakaua Intermediate School

Augie Tulba

Augie Tulba

Mrs. Murakami was the first teacher who, when I looked at her, I knew she cared about me.

Former student of Millie Murakami

Dole Middle School


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

Here, HEA showcases testimonials about amazing teachers to highlight the importance of our local educators. These stories were collected and featured throughout our website, newsletter, and social media in 2021 as part of our 100th anniversary celebration.

Community Testimonials

We are honored to share these memories from our community about the impact of Hawaii educators on their students’ lives.

"Czeara welcomes constructive feedback, demonstrates genuine compassion towards others, and works collaboratively with her mentor teacher, her peers, and her professors."

Czeara Rae Santos

2021-22 Continuing College Students Scholarship Recipient

UH Manoa

"Ms. Dorothy Aspinwall from the University of Hawaii was my FR 101 professor and later became my mentor. She encouraged me to study abroad, seek higher education and eventually become a French professor myself."

Jean Toyama

In honor of Dorothy Aspinwall

University of Hawaii

"Mr. Kawahara at Farrington High School helped me become the educator I am today. He cares about his students and he kept in touch with me after graduation, offering any advice when I needed it."

Brooke Gascon-Vea

In honor of Marc Kawahara

Farrington High School

"Mr. Cox at Kapaa High School had a passion for teaching science and helped his students see the value in STEM. His passion led me to pursue my degree in chemistry education and become a licensed teacher."

Joshua Cram

In honor of James Cox

Kapaa High School