First cohort of Mu’o Scholarship recipients begin their journey to a teaching career
Efforts to address Hawaii’s teacher shortage have come in all different forms, from monetary incentives to scholarships. Recognizing the critical need for early education teachers in Hawaiʻi, Chaminade University and Kamehameha Schools have established the Mu‘o Scholarship, an innovative and community-focused teacher prep partnership that will provide tuition funding to educate, train and prepare aspiring teachers to lead Hawaii’s classrooms.
“By providing these scholarships, we’re removing barriers that too often hinder many working adults in the state from obtaining a bachelor’s degree while still maintaining family and work commitments,” says Chaminade University President Lynn Babington, Ph.D. “Mu’o means to bud, and we believe our Mu’o Program will allow us to grow teachers, to bud teachers who will positively impact our communities through their teaching careers for generations to come.”
This month, the first cohort of 49 Mu‘o Scholarship recipients began their path toward earning their teaching degrees. Of the 49 new students, 32 of them identified as Native Hawaiian, which matters because, like elsewhere around the country, the public education teacher workforce in Hawaii does not mirror the diversity of the student population. New York Times writer Claire Cain Miller cites research that says “students tend to benefit from having teachers who look like them, especially nonwhite students.”
The same research shows that students perform better when they have teachers who reflect their race and gender, particularly in disadvantaged, high minority areas. However, this leads to another question: Do teachers who have a better cultural understanding of their students tend to stay longer in their roles? In Hawaii, the short answer is yes.
“From Hanapepe to Hilo, we want to provide pathways to a college degree, and we believe that our Mu‘o Program will allow us to do that,” says Janet Davidson, Ph.D., Vice Provost of Academic Affairs. “By increasing opportunities for culturally relevant professional development, we significantly increase students’ success, and we see our students succeed to degree completion.”
The Mu‘o Scholarship recipients also come from four of the major islands, with 14 from the Hawaii Island, 28 from Honolulu, eight from Kauai and five from Maui. Students’ majors also vary, with one concentrating on secondary education and another in elementary education, and the rest are majoring in either Early Childhood Education or Early Childhood Education with Montessori Credential.
“We did some surveys and early childhood educators indicated their life situations didn’t allow them to take in-person courses,” says Dr. Elizabeth Park, Associate Professor and Director of Early Childhood Education with Montessori Credential. “So what we did was spend the energy and the time to design robust online courses to meet the needs of our educators.”
Chaminade’s online bachelor’s degree program is designed for working adults in Hawai‘i who may already be serving as a teacher’s aide or, currently, in a similar position. The online delivery format will allow students to continue working while pursuing their bachelor’s degree. Program information is available and applications for the scholarships are being accepted. This transformative program is 100 percent online, with a requirement to complete a student-teaching track. Students will be paired with an academic advisor to guide them on the road to graduation.
“Chaminade and Kamehameha Schools deeply value education, and we know a teacher-prep program, like our Mu‘o Program, will help address the teacher shortage here in Hawaii,” Davidson says. “And we know that education, especially from early childhood, has such a positive impact on our kids, their families and the community.”