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Lydia Saffery

University of Hawaiʻi–West Oʻahu alumna Lydia Saffery was selected as one of 12 literacy educators nationwide to receive the 2021–22 National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Early Career Educator of Color Leadership Award. Saffery, who currently teaches at Waiʻanae High School, graduated from UH West Oʻahu in 2018 with a bachelor of education in secondary education and a bachelor of arts in English.

The award supports early career teachers of color as they build accomplished teaching careers in literacy education. Honorees benefit from professional learning opportunities, mentorship and access to a network of peers from across the country.

“I was excited to use the resources and mentorship that was afforded to us through this award to benefit the students at Waiʻanae High School,” said Saffery.

Being able to provide for her students in such a way is meaningful for Saffery, who is from Mākaha. She views teaching as a career that allows her to give back to the community that raised her.

When Saffery applied for the award, she said she wasn’t sure that she would get it, but thought it was worth a try. She received great encouragement from her UH West Oʻahu professors.

“Our job as faculty is to recognize the gifts our students have and help them to bring that gift forward into their career and life, even beyond our time with them at UH West Oʻahu,” said Cathy Ikeda, assistant professor of middle level and secondary English. “Lydia is a gifted writing teacher.”

Empowering students

UH West Oʻahu’s program instilled in Saffery the instructional values of student empowerment through “choice and voice in the classroom,” which she now carries into her teaching practice.

“My main goal as a teacher is to empower students through the instruction in my classroom and my interactions with my professional community,” Saffery said. “As a student at UH West Oʻahu, I was trained to curate materials and create classroom experiences that put students’ experiences—as children of Hawaiʻi—at the center of instruction.”

In recent years, Saffery has presented at the 2020 NCTE about teaching writing during the time of COVID, and is also a teacher consultant for the Hawaiʻi Writing Project (which introduces educators to practices that will motivate students and teachers). She will start her doctoral program at UH Mānoa this summer.

“She has been able to take her gift and use that gift to make change at Waiʻanae High School and with our current candidates as a mentor teacher for us (at UH West Oʻahu),” said Ikeda.

Read more at Ka Puna O Kaloʻi.

—By Zenaida Serrano Arvman

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