Ask anyone in the ISLAND PACIFIC ACADEMY community who comes to mind when you say “oli” or “May Day” and the answer will invariably be Ms. Momi. Momi Kuahiwinui joined ISLAND PACIFIC ACADEMY as the Kindergarten teacher on November 18, 2004. Over the past 15 years, she has been a caring teacher of the littlest ones and has worked to promote the knowledge and appreciation of the Hawaiian culture. She is one of seven current IPA faculty and staff members who are celebrating their 15th year of service.
There have been many moments of pride for Kuahiwinui over the years. One that especially stands out for her is the success she had with one of her new readers who was finding the skill especially challenging.
“I will always remember the day when one of my struggling readers proudly and confidently read a book to our K2 class,” shares Kuahiwinui. “I worried throughout the year on how I could turn that ‘a-ha light’ on for this student. At the end of the year, she ‘shined’ with pride as she read to her friends.”
The impact Kuahiwinui had for this child was indelible, and the student’s mom still keeps in touch and continues to thank her for her perseverance in working for her child’s success. For Kuahiwinui, that kind of connection with students and families is one of the most rewarding things about teaching.
Another source of pride for Kuahiwinui has been working together with her daughter, Makana (former IPA ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi teacher), to expand the school’s Hawaiian program and seeing how it has succeeded in bringing Hawaiian language and culture to the students in many different ways.
The reach of ISLAND PACIFIC ACADEMY’s Hawaiian program can be seen in the 5 Agreements posters displayed in every classroom and office, in the chanting of the IPA oli at every school assembly and event, and in the expansion of ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi in the Elementary and Secondary curriculum. And, of course, it is seen annually in the beautiful May Day celebration, which Kuahiwinui leads and organizes, that has been a tradition at IPA from the very beginning.
“One of the most memorable moments for me was last year’s (2019) May Day celebration,” shares Kuahiwinui. “It was always my dream to have our May Day celebration at Puʻuokapōlei. Although it took a little more effort as far as logistics go, it was a memorable experience for all to be there at our community’s special wahi pana.”
Kuahiwinui hopes to be able to return the May Day celebration to Puʻuokapōlei again in the near future.
For Kuahiwinui, it is the people and the school values that have inspired her to be part of ISLAND PACIFIC ACADEMY for the past 15 years.
“When people ask me what the difference is between IPA and other schools, I tell them it’s the people who work there and their commitment to the haumana,” explains Kuahiwinui. “ There’s something about IPA that gives our students more than just academics. It could be the specials, it could be the balanced curriculum, it could be the many school traditions – Lā Kupuna, May Day, Fall Family Festival – that include ALL of the ʻohana, but for sure it’s the aloha that it felt from teachers and staff. And it’s also the values we will always teach and hoʻomau.”
Mahalo nui, Ms. Momi, for all your years of dedicated service to the students at ISLAND PACIFIC ACADEMY, and congratulations on 15 years!