About Hawai'i

Be Part of a Unique History and Culture

Beyond the white sand beaches and palm trees, Hawaii has a unique history and a thriving host culture. Hawai‘i is the only state that was once a kingdom with its own royal monarchy. While the Declaration of Independence was being signed in Philadelphia, King Kamehameha I was consolidating his monarchy by conquering and unifying the Hawaiian Islands. Hawaiians spoke a unified Hawaiian language and perpetuated their culture and identity through chants, legends, and oral history. 

In January 1893 the United States Minister assigned to the Kingdom of Hawai‘i conspired with a small group of non-Hawaiian residents to overthrow the indigenous Government of Hawai‘i. Informed of the risk of bloodshed with resistance, Queen Liliuokalani yielded her authority and throne under protest and the U.S. flag was raised over Honolulu. The Queen was later arrested and imprisoned in the palace. In 1898 Hawai‘i was annexed, and in 1959 became the 50th state of the United States of America.

Open Doors of Opportunity and Transform Life Outcomes

Hawai‘i public school students’ performance in math and reading has historically trailed the national average, as measured by the National Assessment of Education Progress. In 2000 and 2002, only Mississippi and the District of Columbia tested significantly lower than Hawai‘i’s average scaled score in 4th grade math and reading. In 2005, just 18 percent of 8th graders in Hawai‘i tested as proficient or above in math and 18 percent as proficient in reading. 

Throughout the state, students, teachers and parents are uniting to transform our local educational landscape. Teach For America-Hawai‘i proudly partners with the Hawai‘i State Department of Education and local community partners to support equitable access to an excellent education for students on Oʻahu and Hawaiʻi Island. After 10 years of partnership, we are seeing success. 

For example, Wheeler Middle School, on Oahu, has seen a 23 percentage point gain in reading proficiency and a 47 percentage point gain in math proficiency in the nine years since Teach For America-Hawai‘i began placing corps members at the school. Teach For America teachers, with the support of Principal Brenda Vierra-Chun, have played a key role in this growth, taking on mid-level leadership roles, starting new programs, and developing innovative curricula that continue to be used at the school. Great teachers open doors of opportunity and transform life outcomes for young people—Wheeler Middle School’s progress provides hope that change is possible.

Honoring Our Local Context

Education reform efforts in recent years have focused on integrating Native Hawaiian culture into classroom learning. In 2015, the Hawai‘i State Department of Education launched its Nā Hopena A‘o (HĀ) framework, which provides students and teachers with support to develop the skills, behaviors and dispositions that are reminiscent of Hawaiʻi’s unique context, and to honor the qualities and values of the indigenous language and culture of Hawaiʻi. Similarly, Teach For America-Hawai‘i’s Strategic Direction: 2016-2026 has prioritized the recruitment of Native Hawaiian and kama‘āina (from Hawaiʻi) corps members so that our teachers represent the communities where we work.

While Hawai‘i still has a long journey to reach the day when all students have access to an excellent education that prepares them to become authentic leaders of our local and global communities, the collective charge to bring about change is stronger than ever. In partnership with schools, communities, and leaders in the public and private sectors, we continue to work each day with hope and optimism for the years ahead.


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Teaching in Hawai'i

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