Kanoelani Elementary principal receives National 'LifeChanger of the Year' award


Principal Stacie Kunihisa has been selected as the 2020-21 LifeChanger of the Year Spotlight Award winner. Kunihisa is recognized for her leadership and ability to inspire others.

Kanoelani Elementary School Principal Stacie Kunihisa has been selected as the 2020-21 LifeChanger of the Year Spotlight Award winner.

Sponsored by the National Life Group Foundation, the award recognizes and rewards the very best K-12 educators and school district employees across the country exemplifying excellence, positive influence and leadership. The 2020-21 Spotlight Award specifically honors educators who have gone above and beyond during remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kunihisa — who was nominated by family member Donna Katsura — was recognized Wednesday for her leadership and ability to inspire others. To help educators connect and adapt to remote learning, she created an online learning platform, Principals Helping Principals, which allows school administrators to build community partnerships and find innovative ways to support distance learning. Within a few days, more than 100 administrators statewide signed up to share strategies and leadership ideas.

Even before the pandemic, Kunihisa worked tirelessly to build a strong sense of community at Kanoelani focused on compassion and collaboration, often using her mantra “WE is better than ME.” Last year, she hosted a statewide “Choose Love” conference, bringing together over 450 educators to discuss incorporating social-emotional learning into classroom instruction. The work has proved especially crucial this year as educators help students address the mental wellness and social-emotional challenges of remote learning.

“The love, passion and dedication Stacie Kunihisa pours into everything she does is inspiring,” said Iona Kaai, a fellow educator at Kanoelani. “Prior to meeting Stacie, I didn't realize the potential in myself until Stacie saw it and invested time, energy and faith into my development. Now, having worked under her guidance, I realize my case was not a one-time incident; this is something Stacie truly lives. Stacie Kunihisa is a true life-changer — for her staff, who she mentors and pushes to be the best they can be, the children she advocates for in her school, and the community she builds relationships with.”

Kunihisa wins a $5,000 prize, which will be awarded as a $2,500 individual prize and a $2,500 donation to Kanoelani Elementary, as well as a donation of 50 KeikiDesks to Kanoelani from Windward Financial. Kunihisa was presented with the award during a school faculty meeting on Wednesday by National Life Group representatives Mallorie Manosh and Herb Hussey. Learn more about Kunihisa.

About LifeChanger of the Year

Each school year, LifeChanger of the Year receives hundreds of nominations from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Seventeen individual LifeChanger of the Year awards will be given during the 2020-21 school year.

  • One grand prize winner will receive $10,000 to be shared with their school/district.

  • Four grand prize finalists will receive $5,000 to be shared with their school/district.

  • 10 LifeChanger Award winners will receive $3,000 to be shared with their school/district.

  • One Spirit Award is given to the nominee whose community demonstrates the most support for their nomination. The winner will receive $5,000 to be shared with their school/district.

  • One Spotlight Award is given to a nominee in a specific discipline each year. For 2019-20, the Spotlight Award was given to a nominee who has made a proven impact on school safety.  The winner received $5,000 to be shared with their school or district.

  • One Capstone Award is given to a retiring educator. The winner will receive $3,000 to be shared with their school/district.

Winners are chosen by a selection committee of former winners and education professionals. Nominees must be K-12 teachers or school district employees. To be considered for an award, nominees must:

  • Make a positive impact in the lives of students.

  • Enhance their school or district’s atmosphere, culture and pride.

  • Demonstrate exemplary leadership at the school and/or district level.

  • Possess a proven record of professional excellence.

  • Show commitment to building a nurturing environment that supports learning.

  • Adhere to the highest moral and ethical standards.

To nominate someone from your school community, visit www.LifeChangeroftheYear.com.

Contact Information

Communications Branch

Phone: (808) 784-6200

Email: doeinfo@k12.hi.us


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