Dr. Kani Blackwell is working hard to build a program that will benefit students all over Kaua‘i.
The program is dedicated to helping Kaua‘i residents become teachers without leaving the comfort of their island home.
Established in August 2003, the Homegrown teachers program began to help people all over the state become teachers without taking the costly, and inconvenient, trip to O‘ahu’s University of Hawaii Manoa. According to Dr. Blackwell it was started to “serve the Neighboring Islands, to meet their needs.” At Kaua‘i Community College, individuals in the program are able to obtain the first two years of baccalaureate education and complete the other two years using traditional classroom instruction. Blackwell said the Department of Education on Kaua‘i is still trying to recruit Mainland teachers, and that Kaua‘i teachers are better equipped to teach Kaua‘i students.
Shiannte Keogh, a teacher at Kapa‘a High school said “this program has opened up more career options. It’s helped me reach my goal towards becoming a teacher.”
This program is not an easy one, despite its convenience of location, Blackwell said. “A good candidate for this program is one who is able to have the desire to share the love of learning and is committed and dedicated,” she said.
Blackwell said many teachers have families to support and jobs and that most families can’t afford to pay for college. Because of this, many people have to work more than one job just to go to school. The program may require acquiring another job. “It costs $16,000 per year, plus the cost of books, computer software, travel, and other associated expenses,” Blackwell said.
Many students end up dropping out because they can’t fulfill the requirement of being a student teacher for a semester, a requirement that is unpaid.
Blackwell is now making a huge effort to attain scholarships for the students in the program and to ensure that they can stay in it. Keogh adds, “It’s a really good program, and I would recommend it to those who want to become a teacher.”
Currently the Rotary Club of Kauai has expressed interest in the program. The club is helping Blackwell develop the program through both monetary and voluntary support.