Friday, April 20, 2018

TLA Celebrates Na Kumu Alaka'i Cohort 2017-2018

2017-2018 TLA Cohort

On Thursday, April 19th - Na Kumu Alaka'i ~ Teacher Leader Academy (TLA) inducted 40 amazing educators into the HIDOE ranks of teacher leadership. The day was full of action research projects, oral presentations and a gallery walk of testimonies to share impact made at the school, complex and district levels. Guests included HIDOE Deputy Superintendent, Phyllis Unebasami, Assistant Superintendent Cynthia Covell, Complex Area Superintendents from across the State, Principals and Vice Principals supporting their teachers, HIDOE state-level specialists, University and College representatives, and notable community stakeholders who continually support teacher leadership across the State of Hawai'i.

As a way of growing leaders, reflective practices are continually built into our program - below is an excerpt from Marianne Belmoro's culminating reflection about her TLA experience:

It is with bittersweet emotions we bid farewell to this tremendous group of teacher leaders, and wish them well on their future opportunities and journey as educators in this remarkable field of education.
A hui hou kākou!
Sandy Cameli
TLA Program Specialist

Congratulations to the following Teacher Leaders for their dedication to Hawaii's public schools and students:

Kaleo Aki, Hilo Intermediate

Victoria Andrus, Honolulu District Office

GeriAnn Aoki-Davidson, Kahakai Elementary

Marianne Belmoro, Fern Elementary

Justin Brown, Kealakehe High

Kathy Burch, Waimalu Elementary

Kainoa Calip, Mt. View Elementary

Bill Chen, Kahakai Elementary

Alisha DeGuair, Kahakai Elementary

JoAnn Eckert, Kaimuki-McKinley-Radford Complex Area

Jeffrey Fernandez, Pearl City-Waipahu Complex Area

Keali'i Freitas, Kealakehe High

Dyani Fujita, Keonepoko Elementary

Moani Garcia, West Hawaii Complex Area

Lisa Grinder, Lanakila Elementary

Joseph Gross, Konawaena Elementary

Ian Haskins, Princess Nahienaena Elementary

Keala Ili, Mt. View Elementary

Kimberly Ka'ai, Kaunakakai Elementary

Dean Kai, James Campbell High 

Tiffany Kanahele, Kailua High 

Mandy Kaya, Kahului Elementary

Leialoha Kelekolio, Kanoelani Elementary

Cameron Kubota, Waianae High

Brandon Lee, Kauluwela Elementary

Cassandra Macatiag, Kealakehe High

Nikki Morishige, Waiahole Elementary

Stephanie Murayama, James Campbell High

Alison Nakamatsu, Solomon Elementary

Megan Oberg, Keonepoko Elementary

Tzaddi Pearce, Solomon Elementary

LeeAnn Ragasa, Hilo Union Elementary

Deborah Rowe, Waimea Canyon Middle 

John Santiago, James Campbell High

Dr. Michelle Suzuki, EdD, Campbell-Kapolei Complex Area

Kamaile Taba, Ke Kula Ni'ihau O Kekaha, PCS

Lori Takahashi, Waipahu Intermediate

Jenna Valbuena, Kae'wai Elementary

Joyce Yang, Kapolei High

David Yung, Maunawili Elementary

Photos, Tweets and Posts from April 19, 2018 ~ TLA Celebration




Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Accountability Partners

Working with an Accountability Partner is as Easy as 3-2-1
Sandy Cameli, EdD • Hawaii Dept. of Education • Honolulu, Hawaii

It’s that time of year again when goals are set, resolutions are made, and fresh starts begin with the hope of identifying more good habits than bad ones for the eternal optimists. Why then do old habits (usually non-productive ones) creep back into our routines when we least expect it? How can most people ride the high of a Happy New Year, yet feel the doldrums of defeat by early Spring? And, how can proactive and productive leaders continue to feed their souls through personal and professional accomplishments without succumbing to failure during the February Flop?

In various circles, individuals rely on built-in support systems to meet their goals. Athletes find training partners to condition; students utilize study groups to share and acquire knowledge; and, community organizations unite around service projects. It is the accountability or a common purpose with others that tends to yield successful outcomes. How then can this “accountability” mindset be applied to an individual seeking that same feeling of accomplishment when the world seems to speed by on a daily basis?

For the last 18 months, I have built weekly conversations into my routine with an Accountability Partner. I was thrilled to find a colleague who also was seeking a way to enhance her individual growth, but like me wasn’t quite sure where to begin. Between hectic work and family responsibilities, little or no opportunities for formal meetings seemed to exist. However, we needed to find a way to support one another, while also balancing our insanely busy lives. We started by deciding to commit to a set time limit, and frequency. After multiple proposals, we settled upon a 20-minute phone call on Friday mornings before either of us left for work. And, barring extreme circumstances (ie: travel, sick child, vacation), we made a commitment to listen, share and support each other for personal and professional growth.

The next step was to decide how to spend the 20 minutes. If the purpose of our calls was to keep each of us accountable, then we needed a structure or protocol to guide the conversation. Based on a writing reflection tool, we adopted the 3-2-1 Reflective Protocol to focus our calls. The tool requires each of us to prepare for the Friday morning sessions by reviewing the preceding week, and identifying “3” achievements, accomplishments or validations. The 3 items shared set a positive tone for the conversation and encourage the listener to probe by asking inquiring questions. After one of us shares, the other follows suit by highlighting three positives outcomes as well. Examples have included: finishing a book started last month, trying a new plant-based recipe with the family, invitation to present at upcoming conference, set up Twitter account….etc.

Alternating turns, we move onto the “2s” which represent wonderings or musings each of us are toying with throughout the week. Sometimes the queries are action-oriented and invite the listener to share her perspective or suggestion, while other ponderings are lofty with a just-putting-it-out-there sentiment attached.  Examples have included: What does the philosophy “Freedom vs Fences” mean? Why am I procrastinating over something easy or interesting to do? How will I maximize downtime - while caring for sick family member - and still meet other responsibilities? At what point does someone outgrow their current position/role, and how would one know when to move on? … etc.

Finally, we each share “1” actionable item we intend to complete in the upcoming week. This really is where the accountability focus comes into play. By verbalizing a goal to another set of ears, I feel compelled to complete such a task in order to share my achievement during our next conversation. And, although there is never judgement from either partner if a goal is not attained, it helps to prioritize tasks throughout the week or reshuffle responsibilities that may get in the way of reaching a target. Additionally, if I aim to achieve something, yet find it continues to be unfinished or incomplete, my Accountability Partner is a great sounding board to help identify barriers or obstacles I may not have been previously aware of. Examples have included: organizing taxes in mid-January, draft/submit proposal to upcoming conference, register for a charity run/walk, refresh emergency kit for car or hurricane season, restarting an exercise routine (again!)….etc. Theoretically, a “1” can become a “3” the following week depending upon the duration of the goal.

So what has the Accountability Partner process done for me? I find the 20 (sometimes 30 minute) calls have become a seamless part of my weekly routine, and provide an optimistic mindset as I head into Fridays, and the weekends. The quick touch-base conversations have helped to validate short and long-term accomplishments, pushed my thinking about various topics, and kept me on-track with reasonable goals for the future.

The 3-2-1 model may not meet the needs of all leaders or professionals, nor do Friday mornings align to everyone’s schedule, however, the example shared has been an effective structure for keeping at least two of us on track as we continue to balance personal and professional lives (since 2016!) And, as another calendar year closes with a new 365 days on the horizon, it’s important to find those strategies and structures which support goals, while also fueling our minds, bodies and souls.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Tri-Level Professional Growth for Learning Leaders

Using a Tri-Level Approach for the Professional
Growth of Learning Leaders
Sandy Cameli, EdD, Educational Specialist • Hawaii Dept. of Education

So what does Tri-Level Professional Growth of leadership look like? Consider professional learning not as a one-size-fits-all model, but rather a fluid series of steps that any individual travels through to explore resources, set and reach goals, and move from independence to interdependence in order to impact effective change on a greater scale. Based on a colleague's story of her childhood years - the analogy parallels professional growth and embodies the stages of independence, interchange and interdependence in a comparable format:

Growing up in a boisterous household, it never occurred to me that the tri-level dwelling was built intentionally for our individual and collective growth, as well as accommodating space needed for the large tribe. Now looking back, I realized the first floor was where much of our exploration occurred (and most of the noise lived!) Between siblings, cousins & friends, we were experimenting with science projects, make-up tutorials, unsupervised wrestling matches and spin-the-bottle with the cute boy next door (oops - TMI?) Due to the excessive TV-watching, ping-pong tournaments and slumber parties, insulation of the walls was not a nicety but a necessity! This ground level was less structured and offered a wide-variety of opportunities for us as individuals to develop our likes, dislikes and personalities.

The middle level was where the kitchen and living room were located - and although the rooms invited conversation - we (as kids) certainly learned the difference between indoor and outdoor voices when utilizing these spaces. It was where cooking with Grandma became a lesson in love, as well as the fine art of meal preparation; It was where presents were wrapped and unwrapped as family celebrated birthdays, babies, book clubs and bad hair days! And, it was the level of the house we exchanged ideas, experiences and opportunities as a group.

Finally, the upstairs is where the bedrooms were located. Whether we were telling secrets in the dark with our cousins, having a heated disagreement behind closed doors, or being comforted by a parent after a bad dream or break-up, the top level of our home was the safe zone with a calming tone associated with its location. The uppermost tier wasn’t just where noise decreased, but where trust was magnified. We were allowed to be scared and vulnerable. It’s where we knew others showed empathy, consistency and support when we most needed it - whether it be one-to-one confidential conversation, or a cluster of us on the bed mourning the loss of a pet. It was the part of the house we felt most connected to one another - it felt like home.

Not unlike the scenario described above, the Tri-Level Approach to Professional Growth is based on three levels of learning experiences - independence, interchange and interdependence - and, provides support and resources as a leader moves through roles, situations and opportunities. And, although the professional connections may not be as intimate as family ties, similarities do align.

Independence if often associated with “going solo” or being self-sufficient. As an independent leader, learning often occurs in isolation and with self-selected resources. An individual may be more comfortable with risk-taking when parameters have been predetermined, and moving outside of one’s comfort zone is relatively minimal. Self-directed learning is based on interests, needs and goals; while interaction and collaboration with peers is typically absent at this stage. Based on a book, a favorite TED talk, a subscription to a preferred podcast or attendance at a favored breakout sessions are all various ways independent leaders grow professionally.

The term Interchange can be defined as “ give and receive things reciprocally…”. Many professional learning networks (PLNs) use the model of interchange in order to share resources, best practices and ideas in collaboration with team members. Often loosely structured to build collegiality, interchange-type arrangements favor harmony over truth and can be short-lived or long-term based on the needs of the group. Leaders who engage in and model interchange strategies set the tone for a learning culture throughout their schools/organizations. Group norms help establish parameters in order for learners to explore opportunities and risks within range of their own comfort zones.

The practice of Interdependence tends to be the least utilized level, yet the most beneficial when employed by learning leaders. Not only do colleagues learn to depend upon one another, accountability comes into play for leaders moving effective practices forward. Structures like “problems of practice” or “collegial inquiry” allow peers to delve into common challenges and from there unpack systemic assets and obstacles, which promote or prevent initiatives from moving forward. Since the “truth over harmony” mantra often applies to interdependent opportunities, it is crucial for Working Agreements - such as confidentiality, risk-taking and trust - to be honored as essential pillars of interdependent leadership. Interdependent exchanges are not quick-fixes, nor do outcomes satisfy all needs. Breakout conversations and tangent partnerships may arise from an initial group, and should not be considered in discord with an original plan or discussion, but rather another avenue to problem solving or action-oriented tasks.

Learning leaders are constantly seeking ways to strengthen their knowledge base while also expanding perspectives. The opportunity to facilitate strategies through the independence, interchange and interdependence stages invites participation from colleagues and stakeholders alike. Additionally, learning leaders effectively illustrate for student learners systems and structures for building collaboration and critical thinking skills necessary in current and future endeavors!  

Whether a leader was raised in single room apartment or multi-level house, the opportunity to reflect on one’s own family structures and interpersonal dynamics can set the tone for how lifelong learning is modeled by effective leaders. Volume levels will fluctuate, tears may be shed and conflicts are likely to arise, but when autonomy is encouraged and relationships are established, then growth is inevitable for those involved.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

A Leader's Identity

A Leader’s Identity
Sandy Cameli, EdD • Educational Specialist • Hawaii Dept. of Education

At a recent professional development inservice for teacher leaders, a highly respected and exemplar educator quipped, “Everyone keeps telling me I’m a leader, but I just don’t get it - what exactly do they see, and why don’t I?”  This comment was less about humility and more about understanding one’s own perception of identity. What we exude may be a behavior - even a facade depending upon circumstances - but do these actions truly represent who I am, or who I believe I am as a leader?

Robert Dilts’ research, on “The New Leadership Paradigm (1996)”, provides an overview of how an individual’s beliefs and values are developed or influenced by environmental and experiential factors. Dilts’ model can be compared to nested bowls which illustrate various levels of learning. The smallest bowl represents behaviors or the “what” that is observable. These behaviors can be actions or reactions associated with a certain time, space or incident. The next bowl is considered capabilities or the “how” level. This second container aligns to skills or strategies used to accomplish a goal or task. The third bowl is where our values/beliefs are housed. Here a leader examines the “why” behind decision making, or consults his or her own moral compass for guidance on actionable items. The last bowl holds all the other levels intact and is considered an individual’s identity. This analogy asks the “who” question and focuses on the mission of a person’s purpose for family, career and life goals. Finally, environment asks the “where” and “when” questions and influences the opportunities or obstacles a leader encounters.

So how can educators apply this model to their own professional growth in order to identify as a teacher leader? Ongoing reflection and self-assessment practices help to hone these skills, which in turn help to mold an identity. For example, a professional growth plan developed around Dilts’ framework may look something like the sample below:

Teacher Leader Professional Growth Plan - SAMPLE
Goal: Use facilitation strategies that engage participants during team meetings
Behavior(s): What will I commit to doing differently?
  • use facilitation strategies (7 norms of collaboration) in my articulation meetings
  • follow the PDCA/ SMART model for problem solving when monitoring progress of RTI
Capabilities: What will I need to learn or skills to develop?
  • practice the 7 norms of collaboration - especially pausing and paraphrasing
  • practice using SMART goals & PDCA cycle outside of grade level Data Teams.
Beliefs & Values: What are my beliefs about this area of improvement?
  • Using these new skills will help validate perspectives & create a positive atmosphere to keep everyone focused on goals/outcomes.
Identity: How will this make me an effective Teacher Leader?
  • I will be a better facilitator by ensuring all participants have equal opportunity to contribute and feel ownership in the outcomes/decisions made collectively.
Reflection/Continuous Improvement: How will I monitor my progress? How will I know I am successful?
  • I plan to be more reflective. I like the idea of writing down reflections at least 3 times a week. Based on these insights, I can see if I’m being successful at what I am trying to improve upon.
Environment: What external factors do I need to be aware of in order to achieve my goal(s)?
  • It’s important to review the mission & vision of our school, as well as observe the norms of behavior currently in place before proceeding w/my goals.

The teacher leader’s growth plan (above) focuses on the skill of facilitation. Currently this educator does not believe facilitation is translating into an effective behavior, which may be construed as weak leadership. However, the educator values multiple perspectives by validating participants, which is tied to a strong belief system. The goal then becomes honing the skill of facilitation by practicing paraphrasing and pausing to elicit multiple viewpoints.

An individual’s identity cannot be solely based on observable behaviors, but instead by one’s beliefs and values and how they are intertwined with capabilities and influences. The teacher at the start of this post could not “see” what others saw, and likely had not stopped to analyze various components - or “Levels of learning” - before jumping to the conclusion of not being a leader.

For aspiring and veteran teacher leaders, it’s never too late to assess our identities via professional growth goals. Take a moment to analyze your own “bowls” by asking, “Are they all accounted for and do they fit together appropriately?”  If the answer is “no”, then it’s probably time to find some new bowls, or at the very least - reconfigure existing containers so they align with your belief system!

Dilts, R. (1996) The New Leadership Paradigm, NLP University, retrieved from

Friday, June 2, 2017

Mahalo Superintendent Matayoshi!

On behalf of Na Kumu Alaka'i teacher leaders, we send a heartfelt Mahalo to our departing Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi!