November & December 2020 Ho‘oha‘aheo


Our monthly online publication to highlight bright spots from across the public school system. This month's issue features our National Blue Ribbon Schools and what makes them #PublicSchoolProud.


Editorial Mission: Hawai‘i’s public school system plays an integral role in the Islands as the state’s largest education provider. As the Department’s primary publication, we aim to live up to the meaning of ha‘aheo — to cherish with pride — by bolstering and sustaining pride in public education and touting the successes happening across the system as we deliver on the power and promise of public education.

'Blue Ribbon' schools credit social-emotional programs, dedicated staff for nationally recognized gains

» Pictured above: Ernest Bowen de Silva, Liholiho and Waikiki Elementary


The three Hawaii public schools recently recognized as National Blue Ribbon Schools each credit their school cultures, a focus on social-emotional programs, and dedicated staff for their nationally recognized achievements. The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program honors public and private schools for outstanding academic excellence or notable improvements in closing the achievement gap.

The three Hawaiʻi schools were among 317 public schools and 50 non-public school winners nationwide announced in September by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

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#PublicSchoolProud  | Highlighting teachers who were vital in achieving the coveted National Blue Ribbon School awards


When I meet former students who are now responsible and contributing individuals to our community, it makes me proud to know that we have prepared them well for their future endeavors. It’s important that all children who go through the public school system are given equal opportunities to succeed in life. We provide the foundation necessary to build a growing, productive society.

» Darryl Yagi is celebrating 32 years with the department and 28 years of service at E.B. deSilva Elementary School. He serves as the school’s fifth and sixth grade math teacher and is inspired daily to help his vulnerable students reach their highest potential. Darryl was awarded Hawai‘i District Teacher of the Year in 2016 and finds joy in teaching and learning every day.


When I think about our school, a sense of belonging, gratitude and flexibility comes to mind. Our students, especially our English Learners, benefit from school traditions, progressive teaching approaches, and community connections. Above all, our students know they are capable contributors to our school ‘ohana. This validation empowers them to soar in these uncertain times.

» Helen Bailey Ledesma services the English Learners community using her TESOL and CERI certifications in addition to a few of her favorite tools: p4c Hawai‘i, project-based learning, Total Physical Response, and Project GLAD. She also supports the fourth grade team by co-teaching science. Helen is celebrating her 20th year of teaching and her fifth year at Waikiki Elementary School.

Teacher and Student Voice  |  Processing the pandemic through poetry

By Lory Peroff

» Pictured above: Lory Peroff, fourth grade teacher at Waikiki Elementary School and students Chiara Close, Suriel Wane, Mirnah Amer


It all happened so fast. One moment, I was hugging my students at the classroom door and wishing them a happy spring break and the next, I was scrambling to figure out Zoom, cleaning out cubbies, and having the sad realization that I wouldn’t physically finish the school year with them. None of this sat well with me.

It wasn’t just me. Many of my students expressed a sense of loss, fear and anxiety. I encouraged my students to share their feelings through writing. Poetry offered my students a healthy and accessible way to process all the changes.

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News Feed  |  #HI4PublicEd

A roundup of announcements, resources and shoutouts.

» Congratulations to King Liholiho Elementary Principal Christina Small for receiving the U.S. Department of Education’s 2020 Terrel H. Bell Lifetime of Leadership Award in recognition of outstanding school leadership!


» This Talk Story with Dr. K. episode features 2021 Hawai‘i State Teacher of the Year Lori Kwee, a fourth-grade teacher at Ala Wai Elementary School. Hear about her nationally recognized work with anti-bullying and advice for those considering becoming a teacher.


» Getting your flu vaccine is more important than ever this year. It helps to protect you and your loved ones from the flu and helps to reduce the burden of flu on hospitals and health care systems. To find a vaccinating pharmacy or clinic in your neighborhood, visit the DOH Vaccine Locator.


Dr. Christina M. Kishimoto



Phyllis Unebasami
Deputy Superintendent


Heidi Armstrong
Student Support Services
Teri Ushijima
Curriculum and Instructional Design
Brook Conner
Information Technology Services
Cynthia Covell
Talent Management
Brian Hallett
Fiscal Services
Rodney Luke
Strategy, Innovation and Performance
Randall Tanaka
Facilities and Operations



Nanea Kalani

Executive Editor


Chanel Honda

Managing Editor/Creative Director


Karwin Sui
Contributing Writer




1390 Miller St. Honolulu, HI 96813 | Phone: (808) 784-6200 | Fax: (808) 586-3234

What makes you #PublicSchoolProud?

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Contact Information

Communications Branch

Phone: (808) 784-6200



Ho‘oha‘aheo newsletter cover

The Department's primary publication featuring successes across our public schools.

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