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Alohilani Okamura
Alohilani Okamura

A University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa College of Education professor is the recipient of the 2021 Southwest Conference on Language Teaching (SWCOLT) Excellence in Teaching Post-Secondary Award.

With more than 30 years of experience teaching Hawaiian language and developing programs in public and charter schools throughout the state of Hawaiʻi, Alohilani Okamura said she developed a deep respect for learning the language as a graduate student at UH Mānoa.

SWCOLT is a regional world language teachers’ organization in partnership with state teacher associations from Hawaiʻi, Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Utah. Okamura, who is in the Institute for Teacher Education (ITE) Secondary World Languages, was selected for her exceptional commitment to language education.

“I am so proud of Dr. Okamura for being recognized for her excellence in preparing World Language teacher candidates,” said ITE Secondary Director Charlotte Frambaugh-Kritzer. “Our World Language candidates are diverse, specializing in Hawaiian, Samoan, Chinese, Korean, Spanish, French and Japanese. Dr. Okamura is inspiring as she extensively takes on learning about each of these cultures and languages herself. She speaks fluent Hawaiian and some Japanese, yet more importantly she knows how to prepare any World Language teacher candidate regardless of the language.”

“Learning and teaching the Hawaiian language and culture has been transformative for me, a way of life,” Okamura said. “We speak the language and live the values. And now, in teacher education, it is even more important than ever to bring the Hawaiian language culture and values with me in cultivating the next generation of teachers in Hawaiʻi.”

Rooted in place-based learning, Okamura’s teaching, she explained, is a responsibility.

“In Hawaiian we say, “ʻAuamo ke kuleana” or to carry your responsibility. As Hawaiian language kumu (teachers), it is our kuleana (responsibility) to perpetuate the language and culture. The best way to do this is by standing on the shoulders of the cultural giants and icons, who came before us. Through their selfless examples of Aloha, we are equipped to inspire and educate the next generation of Hawaiian language learners,” she said.

Okamura will be recognized during an SWCOLT Awards and Scholarships Celebration on Friday, March 26, 2021.

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.

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