Keith Hayashi began his term as interim superintendent on Aug. 1, as the new school year got underway for most schools. It’s been nonstop since, working with the tri-level teams on everything from setting direction for priority areas to expanding access to COVID testing to engaging policymakers and stakeholder groups.
He took a few minutes to answer some questions to help us get to know him a little better.
Supt. Hayashi is a proud Kaimuki High graduate. He grew up from a young age competing in judo, a sport he credits with teaching him the value of perseverance and the importance of helping others.
He's been with the Department for 32 years, starting off as a teacher at Lehua Elementary and working his way through all levels of the Department — from classroom teacher to resource teacher to VP to principal to CAS and even interim deputy superintendent and interim superintendent previously.
He's best known for his work leading Waipahu High School the last 12 years. While he's been recognized for numerous local and national awards and accolades over the years, he is a very humble leader. He's a risk taker with a "get it done" attitude, who strives to elevate students of all abilities and backgrounds to exceed their own expectations and achieve their fullest potential.
Q: What's a favorite memory from when you were an elementary school teacher?
KH: When I taught at Lehua Elementary under Principal Gracie Matsuo, she was very supportive of us doing things that were different. We were able to innovate and try different things in order to engage students and get them to think, “Wow!” at what they're doing and be excited about learning.
I've been fortunate that along the way many mentors have instilled in me the belief that if you do what’s right for kids, no matter what, you’re going to make the right decision. If you make decisions based on what’s right for them, you'll succeed.
Q: What's one of your proudest moments leading Waipahu High?
KH: Achieving wall-to-wall national model career academies. That’s one of many, but that one stands out because everybody had to get involved to get to that point — teachers, classified, certificated, business partners, parents and students who served on our advisory board, and alumni — everyone had to be on board. When we talk about all hands on deck working toward a common purpose, this is an example of that. And being validated nationally was important as it provided another set evaluative eyes. It valued and honored the work of everyone in the school community, all in support of students.
Q: What did you aspire to be when you were a kid?
KH: I never really thought about it. I don’t remember anyone seriously asking me. My parents always told me: No matter what you do, you have to love it because that’s what you’re going to do for the rest of your life.
After graduating high school, at UH, I took courses and got to the point where I needed to declare a major. My friend was in teaching and said since I worked with kids in judo, I should consider education. I took her advice and it was one of the best decisions of my life.
I think that experience kind of impacted me as to why it’s important for students to think about the future at an early age. At Waipahu, rather than ask students what they want to be, we ask them what kinds of problems do they want to solve. It’s a mindset shift that opens endless possibilities.
Q: What's a hidden talent most people don't know about?
KH: I can do a semi-decent rendition of Louie Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World.” LOL.
Q: What book are you reading now?
“Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future” by Margaret Wheatley.
Q: Favorite school lunch menu item – when you were in school, and when you worked at schools?
KH: Roast turkey with gravy with mashed potatoes. Then and now. Close second: Baked spaghetti with cheese.
Q: Having spent so many years at Waipahu High, what's your go-to order from Waipahu favorite Rocky's Coffee Shop?
KH: Hamburger steak with onions, sub fried rice.
Q: How do you destress these days?
KH: Walking and spending time with my family.
Q: What's the best lesson you learned from your judo career?
KH: Judo’s motto is Seiryoku-zenyo Jita-kyoei. It means maximum efficiency, with mutual welfare and benefit.
When you think about it, if we all lived by that, we’d be alright. Thinking about others and about giving back. How do you do your best in service to others? How do you better yourself to better others?
Q: What’s the best professional advice you’ve ever received?
KH: I’ve been really fortunate to work with a lot of great mentors throughout my professional career. Their professional advice to me was, you gotta take care of yourself and family, because balance is important.