Wilbur Luna

Richard Keakahiwa

Mayor Joseph J. Fern Elementary School

Mr. Richard Keakahiwa was one of the educators who had a major influence on longtime Hawaii Education Association (HEA) leader Wilbur Luna as he was growing up.

Mr. Keakahiwa, Luna’s sixth grade teacher at Mayor Joseph J. Fern Elementary School in Kalihi, became a mentor for the future educator.

“He helped me gain an appreciation for going to college,” Luna said.

Mr. Keakahiwa instructed Luna on a wide variety of traditional subjects including sentence construction in English class, and the U.S. Constitution and the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in history class. But Luna also learned from him how to grow a variety of vegetables, decorative plants and fruit trees.

“I won the American Legion outstanding sixth grade student award because of his support,” Luna said. “I was able to make the highest score among all sixth graders on the Sixth Grade Achievement Test!”

Luna has been affiliated with HEA for decades and is currently on its board of directors.

He was involved in the early 1970s when HEA successfully led the lobbying effort that made the state’s collective bargaining law a reality and, later, as the duties of representing educators on working conditions and benefits were handed over to three organized union groups representing public school teachers, university professors and faculty, and school administrators.

“HEA was successful in helping to establish collective bargaining by coalescing with unions and other state groups. It wasn’t an easy process and it took a lot of resources and effort to make it happen,” said Luna.

Luna previously taught at Leilehua and McKinley high schools before working full-time as a field representative for HEA, and then did similar work with HSTA when it was formed. In 1974, he was hired by the National Education Association with which he was employed in various capacities for 28 years.

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