New cohort fostering five more teacher candidates

Five more Kaua‘i teacher candidates took root during the summer.

Dr. Kani Blackwell, the Kaua‘i elementary coordinator and a faculty member of the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa, said the five teacher candidates join six other candidates in the 2007-09 cohort program for a total of 11 future Kaua‘i teachers who are in the UH statewide program.

“Department of Education schools have just started, the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa graduated 48 elementary teachers statewide on May 18, and a new cohort started May 23,” Blackwell said. “Since I am faculty in the elementary program, my ‘vacation’ was very short.”

Barbara Bloemke is one of the Kaua‘i residents in the recently-formed 2008-10 cohort. The A-Plus and physical education aide at Kalaheo School jumped right into the cohort program on the heels of a trip to Australia to attend an agricultural convention with her husband.

Joining Bloemke are Maegan Sakai, Kathe Enright, Danison Samiento and Brittney Sutton. Four teacher candidates from Maui, Lisa Chinn, Kawewehi Pundyke, Lisa Yamada and Piane Pasion round out the group.

Samiento and Pundyke are refreshing changes for Blackwell’s program.

“It is so good to have young men in our elementary education program after having all women in our 2007-09 cohort and only one male out of the 48 graduates on May 18,” Blackwell said.

Blackwell said the current cohort programs come on the success of the 13 teachers who graduated from the program in May.

“Growing Our Own Teachers” continues to make a difference in our educational system here on Kaua‘i,” she said. “Of the 13 graduates, all have teaching contracts in our Kaua‘i schools.”

Blackwell has taken her interest in Growing Our Own Teachers to an even deeper level.

In the Spring 2008 issue of “Currents,” a publication produced by the UH at Manoa, College of Education, Blackwell is described as helping to raise $52,000 through five Rotary clubs on Kaua‘ to support student teachers.

Many teacher candidates cannot afford their last semester in which they serve full-time in the classroom without pay, Blackwell stated in that article.

Through an appearance as a speaker for the Rotary Club of Hanalei Bay, Blackwell initiated a Growing Our Own Teachers scholarship fund.

Now faced with rising fuel prices and a tightening economy, Blackwell has taken support of Growing Our Own Teachers to another level when she debuted her “DrB’s Aloha Leis for Teachers” line of hand-made lei and crafts at the recent Heiva I Kaua‘i in Kapa‘a.

“If the teachers are busy juggling their schedules with family, school and studying, this will at least help them pay for some gas,” Blackwell said while manning her new booth at the heiva.

She said proceeds from the craft fair will be devoted to helping more teacher candidates reach their certifications.

Through the Elementary Cohort program, teacher candidates can remain on Kaua‘i while completing their College of Education requirements.

Blackwell said the teacher candidates attend the community college for two years and complete the following two years through the cohort program.

Graduates of the 2008 programs include Alisha Siliado, now teaching at ‘Ele‘ele School, fourth grade; Raquel Rita, ‘Ele‘ele School Special Education preschool; Maile Mier, ‘Ele‘ele School, fifth grade; Suzi Sakai, Kekaha School, first grade; Jenn Johnston, Kekaha School, Special Education preschool; Camas Machado, Koloa School, fourth grade; Jennifer Veeck, Wilcox School, kindergarten; Cindy Oshiro, King Kaumuali‘i, Special Education first-second grade; Doreen Stone, King Kaumuali‘i, first grade; Janet Baumgartner, Kilauea School, first grade; Anne Winthrop, charter school, Anahola; U‘i Corr, Chiefess Kamakahelei, seventh grade Hawaiian Studies; and Lisa McDown, Chiefess Kamakahelei, sixth grade computers and robotics.

• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or


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