In his 21 years at Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School, Kevin Matsunaga has taught over a thousand students how to use cameras and editing software, and how to conduct interviews and tell stories. He emphasizes that the digital media program also teaches students important life skills, like how to work in teams, meet deadlines, communicate effectively and solve problems. “Our goal has never been to produce that next Spielberg,” he says. “It’s always been to just give them opportunities that they would never have had in a regular classroom.” Says Aaron Schorn, “Being a teacher in this world is being a jazz musician. You know your standards, you know how to perform, and then you just free form it based on your student population.” Schorn co-founded Nalukai Academy Startup Camp, a free 10-day technology, entrepreneurship and design boarding camp offered to high school students each summer on Hawai‘i Island and O‘ahu. Experienced entrepreneurs serve as consultants, and students develop products, business plans and investor pitches. In 2017, David Sun-Miyashiro started HawaiiKidsCAN, a local advocacy chapter of the 50-State Campaign for Achievement Now, which advocates for equitable learning environments for all students. Phoenix Maimiti Valentine, a former participant in a HawaiiKidsCAN program and now a board member, says Sun-Miyashiro mentored her to speak to her Wai‘anae Coast community about better education. “David was supporting me the whole time,” she says. “He’s one of the most amazing teachers I’ve met. He encourages students and he pushes them to do things that maybe they hadn’t imagined they could do. He urges them to share their voice and their opinion with the world.”
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