homepage logo

Lahainaluna High School teachers empowered to transform education

By Staff | Jun 25, 2015

The new posters feature students reading like a musician, champion, doctor and kumu, for example.

WEST MAUI – On May 7 at the Westin Kaanapali Resort, Principal Emily De Costa welcomed her Lahainaluna High School Instructional Leadership Team (ILT) with warm hugs.

The event was the culmination of a year’s worth of work completed by school teams on West Maui, Molokai and Lanai who are leading school change.

The idea of empowering teacher leaders to transform education is not new. Principal De Costa advocated for an Instructional Leadership Team a year before the school got involved with the ILT process in 2013.

“I already had my team together when the invitation to join ILT was offered to schools,” said De Costa. “We’ve been working together ever since.”

When ILT members were asked about the purpose of their original team, LHS math teacher Kulani Akahi said, “It was to make a distinction between teacher leaders who address operational issues like establishing policies and procedures, verses teacher leaders involved in improving teacher effectiveness and ensuring student success.”

The ILT specifically focuses on best practices for teaching and learning.

“As a focus school, we needed to come together and implement a plan to raise academic performance,” Principal De Costa explained. “After faculty-wide discussions, we determined that improving student literacy would be a school-wide program that would improve performance in all content areas.”

“We needed to come up with a plan that involved the whole staff in improving student performance,” said Steven Cornell, LHS science teacher and department chair. “So we chose content literacy as our school-wide focus.”

Curriculum Coordinator Lori Gomez-Karinen, also known as “Auntie” to students, teachers and alumni, introduced content literacy to the faculty before the first ILT cycle began.

She started by having the faculty imagine students reading like a historian, a scientist, a mathematician – even a champion!

Later, in a conversation she had with Principal De Costa and a few other educators, the idea of making posters with “Read like a molecular biologist” sounded uniquely appealing.

When asked whom she pictured as the subject of the posters, Principal De Costa said, “The students!”

Soon after, the idea began to take shape in the CTE Business and Visual Arts classes instructed by Craig Wise and Nancy Young.

As of this publication, 14 posters are complete with photographs of students in costume with props, posing as if they were reading like a farmer, a chef or a mechanic, for example.

Three of the 14 posters were exhibited at the Westin, along with two giant display boards created by ILT member and Testing Coordinator Mark Simms. The boards featured Lahainaluna’s ILT journey forward. Other presentations from West Maui, Lanai and Molokai schools were also shared.

“Lahainaluna followed a ten-week professional learning cycle that included professional reading, close reading strategies, safe practice, and peer-to-peer teacher observations,” Simms told a crowd of educators circled around his display boards.

“From classroom experiences and previous standardized test results, we knew student reading levels were low, but it was not until we took steps to test each freshman and sophomore could we verify actual student reading levels.”

“And implementing content literacy is something all teachers should already be doing in all subjects,” said Gomez-Karinen.

“We need not only to prepare students to pass the exams, but also to enhance their life experiences.”

Knowing how to read and comprehend text proficiently is the foundation for becoming a lifelong learner: one who can answer her own questions; solve his own problems; interpret the past and make sense of the future; and one whose life is enriched with the knowledge and purpose to make a difference in the world.

“For our graduates to achieve their dreams, they must be able to read in all content areas, which is why it is so important for the whole school to focus on literacy,” De Costa concluded.