World Teachers’ Day
LIHUE — Teacher Kevin Matsunaga believes student learning should continue after class is over.
“We feel like learning doesn’t have to end at 2 p.m.,” the media productions teacher at Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School said.
And the school has helped students continue their education after that last bell by lending a Chromebook laptop to every student to take home with them at the end of the day.
“If students can take this piece of technology home with them each day, more work can be done,” Matsunaga said.
Also the school’s yearbook teacher and technology coordinator, Matsunaga the 48-year-old Lihue resident was born on Kauai and has worked at the school since it opened in 2000, after teaching for seven years on Oahu. The Wilcox Elementary and Kauai High School graduate and his wife, a teacher at King Kaumuali’i Elementary School, have three children of their own.
“Teachers are also using tools like Google Classroom to distribute work and to engage their students,” Matsunaga said. “I’ve taught now for 24 years and I have never felt like I knew it all and didn’t need to learn anything new. I, like many of my colleagues, always look for new ways to improve my teaching to better engage my students.”
Teachers must always stay current with constantly changing technologies to meet the needs of all students, while also growing professionally themselves.
“I think Kauai teachers meet the needs of future generations through their ongoing professional development,” Matsunaga said. “Whether a teacher attends a workshop or class, or learns something on their own, I think we are all constantly learning and trying to improve our practices.”
Along with professional development programs to better help students, teachers must also have a tremendous desire to carefully guide the youth, the future leaders of our community.
“I think teachers in general are very altruistic, because they put all the needs of those kids first,” said Andrea Healey, Kapaa’s Saint Catherine School art teacher and marketing coordinator. “Teachers spend more time with their students than they spend with their own children.”
Healey added: “Teachers spend their time, their energy, their resources to make sure we educate them, but we also teach them to be a good citizen and be a good person. We want to make sure they feel safe and happy and loved. So teachers nurture the brain but also the heart.”
Teachers work hard to keep students’ interest, but they also frequently take home work and participate in extra curricular activities.
“We are underpaid,” Healey said. “Unfortunately this is how the system works. But I don’t think teachers do it for the money. No matter how much you would pay them, people would still do it. The reason is because they want to help.”
“Our best reward is gratitude, not gifts or money but the gratitude,” Healey said. “We just try to make a difference by providing students the best experience we can. So then as they get older they might remember us or not, but at least they might know right from wrong, reinforcing those core values.”
This attitude of caring for and connecting with the youth can make an important impact on future generations, a responsibility teachers carry with high regard.
“They want to make a difference in little people, so they can grow as beautiful flowers,” Healey said. “I see us like gardeners. We have this garden, and then we plant all these seeds. As a gardener, you’ve got to give them the best fertilizer and water them, so they can grow and flourish, and then provide for themselves and offer the best to the world as well. I think that’s the teacher’s mission.”
The many challenges of teaching are often overlooked, however educators are being specially recognized today on World Teachers’ Day for their important service to keiki and their vital contribution to the community.
“When you’re doing a great job, parents are grateful,” Healey said. “We work together as colleagues to make sure we’re all on the same page about the students, because some teachers share students. When you have a good team, it’s working really well. So parents are usually pretty grateful. What is hard is when you don’t have the parents’ support.”
The theme for World Teachers’ Day 2017 is “Teaching in Freedom, Empowering Teachers.” This annual occasion to mark their achievements also reflects on ways to counter challenges for the teaching profession.