Modeled after the National Catholic Education Association’s Innovation in Catholic Education annual awards and sponsored by Hawaii Catholic Schools, the Ka Ho’oulu Awards focuses on “Innovation for Mission.”
“It recognizes and celebrates talent in Catholic education,” says Dr. Helen Turner, professor of biology and CIFAL research director and former vice president of Strategy and Innovation, which established the Ka Ho’oulu Awards in 2020. “Nominees exemplify innovation in education inside and outside the classroom.”
Award applicants submit projects that illustrate the Catholic worldview, support quality academics, integrate technology, demonstrate data-driven decision making or promote operational vitality. Submissions with the highest marks receive recognition at an annual award ceremony and a grant to continue their work. Eligible nominees can be individuals or teams, and faculty and administrators/staff currently employed at a Hawaii Catholic School (all grade levels K-12).
In an interview with the Hawaii Catholic Herald, retired Hawaii Catholic School’s superintendent, Michael Rockers, said his office’s close collaboration with Chaminade University “helped establish catechetical institutes, the “Teacher of the Year” award, the “Innovation Award,” and to provide a quality review of the Hawaii Catholic Schools office’s goals, objectives and communications.”
“He really wanted an award that was similar to the national innovation award,” Turner says of Rockers. “That’s how we came up with the Ka Ho’oulu, which honors teachers and administrators who are continuously innovating in support of their students.”
The 2022 Ka Ho’oulu Awards winners include Mary Star of the Sea School Honolulu in the team category and Dan Mawyer of Damien Memorial School for the individual award.
“We are pleased to continue our sponsorship of these annual awards,” Turner says. “Mary, Star of the Sea and Mr. Mawyer exemplify education in Hawaii. They are committed to implementing innovative strategies and teaching methods that leverage state-of-the-art technology to create the highest quality students.”
Team award: Mary Star of the Sea School, Honolulu
This award recognized the Mary Star of the Sea’s 2021-22 Schoolwide Literacy Project. The team, nominated by Laci Hitchcock, described a yearlong project that exemplifies the Ka Ho’oulu themes of supporting quality academics, technology integration and data-driven decision making. The review committee was struck by the strategic and comprehensive “whole school” approach to the important goal of improving literacy and mitigating COVID impacts on student reading.
According to the three-member panel, the literacy program holistically integrated student-centered activities with teacher professional development and such enriching programs as guest speakers for parents and the whole school community to engage with. The program collected data on its own impacts, and is now refining the program for its continuation in the new school year. The nomination mentioned that the goal was “to make reading a part of everyday culture.” Drs. Turner and Dustyn Ragasa and Fr. Martin Solma, S.M., were impressed by the commitment of staff, teachers and school leadership to make this goal part of the school’s DNA.
Individual award: Mr. Dan Mawyer, Damien Memorial School
This award acknowledged Mawyer as a school champion in the areas of technology, computing and robotics. A math teacher, Mawyer is passionate about preparing students for the future. He has built coding challenges, robotics teams and STEM activities that engage students in technology, critical thinking and teamwork.
“During the COVID crisis, (Mawyer) stepped up to the plate and offered his expertise to use technology, particularly digital communications, to keep the school community informed and unified,” Turner says. “The entire school benefitted from his innovative approach to creating visually appealing and informative content for information sharing and online learning.”
The review committee further noted that this work has quickly evolved into the leadership of a new project for a broadcast communications center at Damien. Catholic educators are passionate, expert, and student-focused and Dan exemplifies these qualities.