20. Kanoelani Elementary Chooses Love

As soon as I walked on Stacie Kunihisa’s campus I knew something different was happening. Two student ambassadors guided me on a tour of classrooms and project spaces, and spoke to me at length about how campus culture had changed as a result of a “movement” called Choose Love. Both felt that kids were related to each other in ways not seen before. Kanoelani Elementary is a carnival of interesting ideas and concepts in motion. I saw a full hydroponics garden next to one building, and heard about a series of “academy pathways” based on student inputs. Everywhere my ambassadors took me people seemed to be moving with great intent. Learning…is clearly front and center at this school. At the helm is a self-described “dreamer,” Principal Stacie Kunihisa, who grew up and went to school just down the road. In 2019 Stacie and Kanoelani Elementary hosted a Jessie Lewis Choose Love Movement conference on campus. Its 400 seats sold out in less than two weeks. Clearly there is a growing thirst for SEL training and ideas about how to grow more compassionate public, private and charter school cultures in Hawaiʻi. So what Stacie has to say about her journey, with her faculty, staff, students and parents, is important. She is a leader we can learn from. From Kanoelani’s website we learn the school is an “innovative community of leaders, risk takers and warm-hearted citizens who empower the best in each other. We the community of Kanoelani, strive to: Foster the growth of developing the whole child: Collaborate to set and achieve goals: Provide a dynamic environment to maximize students’ potential: Promote empathy and respect towards others.” Stacie was recently named 2019 Hawaiʻi National Distinguished Principal. She also received the $25,000 Masayuki Tokioka Excellence in School Leadership Award, which annually recognizes outstanding public school principals in Hawaiʻi for their efforts to provide high-quality learning opportunities for their students. To learn more about Stacie’s work, and what school could be, read her blog. Merry Christmas, podcast fans! 

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