Gathering Place

Karen Ginoza

Success abounds
in public schools

Tomorrow my time as president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association will come to an end. These have been five of the most challenging and rewarding years of my life. Every day I learned something new and exciting about a school, a teacher, a parent or a student.

But the most important lesson I discovered as president was one that I learned in my first days as a teacher, almost 35 years ago -- the people of Hawaii love their public schools and want them to succeed.

Public schools are succeeding. There are still obstacles to climb, but the positives are far outshining the negatives. Consider the national achievements of some Hawaii students. Adriana Alghussein of Kahuku High School is the only public school student on the prestigious five-member U.S. International Debate Team and is proud to represent Hawaii in international competition. Matthew Jachowski of Maui High School wins national science and engineering fairs with clockwork regularity. The McKinley High School robotics team has earned honors from NASA and in the heart of Silicon Valley.

Laudable as these accomplishments are, they are only a fraction of the true success story. Public school teachers educate and guide 185,000 students a year. The overwhelming majority of these students will, with little fanfare, mature into productive and conscientious members of their communities, forming the base for a prosperous and diversified economy. They will become doctors and lawyers, community leaders and business owners, hard workers and innovators.

Underlying it all are quality schools filled with caring and qualified teachers. This is why I have always been proud to be a public school teacher and why the last five years have been a time I will always cherish.

It was an era in which teachers united in the face of unprecedented adversity in their fight for better schools. We raised the bar for professionalism and accountability by leading the development of the Hawaii Teacher Standards Board. We rewarded teachers' professional growth and high achievement through incentives. We piloted a mentoring program designed expressly to help support and retain new educators.

Soon a new president at the association will take up the fight to keep making our schools better and better. I wish him well and will cheer him on from Royal School in my new role as a special education teacher focused on reading and math skills.

In many ways, today's classroom is a different place than when I last taught. Teachers are tugged in many different directions, each demanding its fair share of attention.

Yet the profession's essence remains the same: guiding children on a path that will allow them to utilize their full potential. There is nothing more satisfying than to see a former student, grown up and happy with his or her life. I recently became reacquainted with a student from my very first year as a teacher. All it took was a simple "thank you" from him to bring a smile to my face.

Now I say to the public school teachers of Hawaii, thank you.

Karen Ginoza is the outgoing president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association. Tomorrow is her last day in office.


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