Cheryl Treiber-Kawaoka
Cheryl Treiber-Kawaoka

Always an advocate for integrating the arts into the curriculum, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa College of Education Institute for Teacher Education (ITE) instructor Cheryl Treiber-Kawaoka, has been named the 2021 Hawaiʻi Art Education Association (HAEA) Art Educator of the Year. Treiber-Kawaoka recently retired after more than 20 years with UH. She will be recognized at the National Art Education Association annual conference in March.

“Cheryl’s commitment to advancing art education in Hawaiʻi, despite the decrease of art in our public schools, has always left a lasting impression on our elementary teacher candidates,” said ITE Elementary Education Program Director Kuʻulei Serna. “Her fervor and quality instruction has motivated and empowered our candidates to incorporate the arts into their teaching.”

Starting as a theater instructor at the University Laboratory School in 2000, Treiber-Kawaoka joined ITE Elementary in 2004, teaching visual and performing arts classes. She also supervised general education students in the field. In 2015, she began working with ITE Secondary where she taught visual arts methods courses and served as a university art and dance coordinator.

“This award is really an acknowledgement of the huge impact the College of Education has on the field of art education,” Treiber-Kawaoka said. “During this pandemic, we see that the arts have a very important role to play bringing learning to life through arts integration and through art for social-emotional health. I think more than anything, my talent is inspiring others to be their own unique kind of art teacher and to realize how important their work is for the keiki.”

As an art therapist, Treiber-Kawaoka worked at Gallaudet Pre-College before moving to Saipan where she began her journey as an art educator, teaching students from elementary to junior college. Later, she was the arts curriculum specialist for the Marianas Islands, writing their first standards-based art curriculum. A 2019 >COE nominee for the UH Excellence in Teaching Award, she helped advocate for a teaching license in dance with the Hawaiʻi Teacher Standards Board.

ITE Secondary Education Program Director Charlotte Frambaugh-Kritzer said, “I was not surprised to hear that Cheryl won this award. I had the opportunity to observe her Performing Arts class for an entire semester (for a research project), and I can attest that her instruction is exceptional and inspirational. She fully deserves this award.”

In her retirement, Treiber-Kawaoka says she hopes to return to her roots in art therapy and explore the intersection of art and spirituality, as well as the joy and wisdom in the art of improvisation.

This recognition is an example of UH Mānoa’s goal of Enhancing Student Success (PDF), one of four goals identified in the 2015–25 Strategic Plan (PDF), updated in December 2020.