Hoping to walk in their students’ shoes, Hawaii teachers to study in the Philippines

Eight Hawaii teachers are taking a special field trip abroad to help them better connect with their students.
Published: Jun. 13, 2022 at 5:41 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 13, 2022 at 8:36 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Eight Hawaii teachers are taking a special field trip abroad to help them better connect with their students.

The group will be visiting the Visayan region in the Philippines for a six-week project funded by the Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad Program under the U.S. Department of Education.

Eva Washburn-Repollo of Chaminade University won a $100,000 grant to fund a summer program meant to increase Hawaii’s capacity in Filipino culture-based education in K-12 classrooms.

The educational journey began with an introduction to food, including squid adobo cooked in its own ink, kinilaw — the Philippines’ version of ceviche — and humba, a pork stew.

Most of the teachers don’t know much about Cebuano culture, but they’re about to get a crash course in it.

The group will spend the summer in the country’s Negros Oriental region, specifically Bohol, Dumaguete and Apo Island, learning the local dialect and history.

About a quarter of Hawaii public school students identify as Filipino, more if you count those of mixed race — and these teachers say they want to walk in their shoes.

“I hope that they see that I value them and that I see who they are. But I also think learning the culture and the language will help me communicate better with their families,” said Kalika Ayin, Pearl City High School English learner coordinator.

Washburn-Repollo, associate professor of communications, says bringing these teachers to her native country means bridging the cultural gap between educators and their immigrant students.

“Then we can make that student who goes to that classroom. And feels value because they are Filipino. And they are they come from a beautiful country.,” Washburn-Repollo said.

“When you’re a student and you don’t know how to speak English, you are put in an ESL classroom and you feel like you don’t have a lot to offer. But your family your parents actually come from a beautiful place.”

From children’s books to curriculum building to lessons on the environment, each teacher is planning a product to add to their curriculum.

“Looking at the, how the mangrove over there helps the environment and how it compares to over here in Hawaii,” said Kauanoeanuhea Zabala-Moore, a sustainability student from UH-Manoa.

“I’ll be engaging with the different indigenous techniques used to measure crab traps in the Philippines,” said Terrius Harris, legislative education fellow for U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz.

“I mainly focus on teaching them the science standards, but I feel like it is really important to incorporate culture because they always ask me, why does this matter?” said Clarissa Torres, Mililani Middle School science teacher.

The other teacher participants are LeAndre Browne, Brittni Friedlander, Maiana Minahal and Jessica Watkins. Katrina Roseler, associate professor of education at Chaminade University, will be supporting the program.

Washburn-Repollo says the products teachers create will be added to the National Archive so universities can access it to teach Cebuano Culture and Language.

An experience this group hopes to share with others — that learning doesn’t always come from inside the classroom.

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