HONOLULU - A Big Island-based teacher preparation program that focuses on developing educators to work with Native Hawaiian students in charter schools recently earned national accreditation, allowing it to soon begin recruiting students.
The Teacher Education Accreditation Council sent the program a confirmation letter saying it had earned five-year accreditation, Kahoiwai Director Joe Fraser said Monday.
The Waimea program provides a way to earn a license to teach in the state that's an alternative option to traditional university-based programs. It was born out of a need to develop local teachers who have an understanding of the unique needs of Native Hawaiian students, Fraser said. While the program focuses on charter schools, those who earn licenses can teach anywhere in the state.
"Hawaii has a shortage of teachers," Fraser said. "It's trying to meet the needs of Hawaiian students in the school system in real terms."
A big part of the program involves six, five-day residential sessions in Waipio Valley, where students study language and cultural practices still used by the community, while learning about incorporating those skills and values in the classroom.
The residential component is combined with online coursework. That makes it easier for students to continue working while participating in the program. An example of those who might find the program useful are those who are emergency hires or teacher's aides who want to pursue a license, Fraser said.
"It's alternative in that there's no bricks-and-mortar university," he said. "It's a values-based program."
It's important to give teachers training in how to be effective in nontraditional schools, such as charter schools, said Wil Okabe, president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association. "This is an opportunity for teachers to get the training they need to identify with Native Hawaiian kids," he said.
The program is one of 13 Hawaii-based teacher preparation programs approved by the Hawaii Teacher Standards Board. The board is expected to ratify Kahoiwai's accreditation next month, Fraser said. Then, Kahoiwai will be able to move forward with recruitment.
Details, such as tuition, are still being worked out for the 18-month program for about 20 students, who are aspiring teachers who have a bachelor's degree in the subject area they want to be licensed in. After completing the program, students will receive a teaching certificate that's necessary to apply for a license.
The program focuses on grades 7-12 in the subject areas of math, English, science, social studies and Hawaiian studies.