Kanoelani’s Own Earns Leadership Recognition
Kanoelani Elementary School principal Stacie Kunihisa has been awarded $2,000 as a top-two finalist for Island Insurance Foundation’s 11th annual Masayuki Tokioka Excellence in School Leadership Award. (Principal Dean Cevallos of Keaau High School earned the top honor.)
According to Island Insurance Foundation, the Masayuki Tokioka Excellence in School Leadership Award is named in honor of the late Masayuki Tokioka, who founded the company.
The award is given to a state principal who is community minded, has an entrepreneurial spirit and has a vision for the future.
Kunihisa, who has been with Kanoelani Elementary in Waipio for a little more than three years, says the award is a reflection of her school.
“I have a good staff,” she says. “I have a really good team who’s working very hard every day to ensure our community is satisfied and the kids are learning, most importantly.
“The biggest thing we’ve worked on as a team is strengthening our school culture,” she continues, noting that once upon a time the school was comprised of many separate pieces. “Now we’re a united team. Our mantra is ‘We > me.’”
Since her installment as principal, Kunihisa has established learning goals for staff and students. One goal was to make sure each child can read by third grade.
With that goal complete, she now has aimed the school’s focus on the sciences. In fact, the school just wrote a grant for a STEM lab, similar to a science center.
“We’re working to strengthen our STEM initiatives at school such as aquaponics and robotics,” she explained.
Kunihisa also understands that book learning is only part of a child’s development.
She also wants to see her students grow up to become leaders in the community who do good for others.
“We do a lot of bucket filling,” she said. “It’s filling people’s buckets. Everyone has an imaginary bucket.”
Students and staff are either bucket fillers and use kind words and show gratitude, or they’re bucket dipping.
Also present on the Kaneolani campus is a big bulletin board featuring Anna and Elsa of the popular Disney flick Frozen to promote the idea of personal growth.
“The entire school reads books on mindsets in the classrooms this year, and everyone is choosing a growth mindset opposed to a fixed mindset,” she explained.
“You control whether or not you’re going to grow and learn.”