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On February 13, 2018, Waialua High and Intermediate School was visited by our state's DOE superintendent, Dr.Christina Kishimoto. The following is a summary of her beautiful trip down North Shore.

It’s no surprise to me that when I visit one of our schools I will find a hidden gem. Whether it is the tiny house being built by students at Maui High, the student at Waipahu’s Teacher Academy that is both taking and teaching geometry, the exceptional performing arts collaborative at Castle High, the space shuttle replica at Kea‘au High School, the Virtual Reality lab at Olomana, or the IB option at Campbell High, these gems are found everywhere. Each offers a unique and special learning environment that help the interests, creativity and passions of our students and their teachers be seen, heard, and felt throughout the campus. My visit to Waialua High School was just as motivating.

Over the past few months, I've taken several trips out to Kaena Point to hike, whale watch and explore O‘ahu's North Shore coastline, and wondered about the school I drove by. While the campus is lovely, it was hard to tell from the outside what treasure of opportunity I would find there. I met Principal Christine Alexander at a meeting and she invited me to see the great things happening on her campus. Within minutes of being there, I knew this was another one of our schools with a hidden story that needs to be told.

Waialua High & Intermediate is a 7-12 school with just over 600 students. The staff have created unique, separate spaces for the middle school grades and the high school grades so that students can have dedicated space with their age group. The high school students who gave me a tour knew all of the middle school students, and I experienced right away the integrated community that is their school culture. The middle school students were on recess and as they gathered around outdoor tables and pulled out devices to play video games or to chat with one another, they remained highly approachable as I spoke with various groups. Their warmth and ready conversation highlighted for me the culture of respect, community and curiosity that is Waialua.

After enjoying a Chinese New Year celebration in the courtyard, the students gave me a tour of core content area classes and talked about the organization of the high school. They then took me to their robotics area. I was struck by the industry partners who were available in these rooms working with teachers and preparing instructional activities that students would engage in that afternoon and after school. In addition to having state-of-the art, industry-grade equipment, the robotics area is organized around an instructional design built around a business concept where all students on a learning team have a job. Students talked about their jobs as designers, marketers, resource managers, communicators, IT specialists and so forth. This approach champions growth: students can the lead in an area of strength while developing skills in areas where they have less knowledge or experience. This also provides a link back to core content as students develop their writing, math, science, research, inquiry and technology skills.

The next level of school design work for Waialua High & Intermediate School is to expand upon those interdisciplinary projects and to ensure that all students “have a job” as part of a team and experience that deep and meaningful application of learning. I love the vision of Principal Alexander and her team!

P.S.: I would like to extend a personal congratulations to Waialua's robotics program leader, Glenn Lee, who is a Top 10 finalist in the prestigious Global Teacher Prize — he's the only teacher representing the United States this year and is vying for a $1 million prize. The winner will be announced during the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai on March 18. Good luck, Glenn!

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