As early childhood educators, we seek to create authentic and meaningful experiences for the children we learn alongside. We must remember that at its core, “education, in its highest form, liberates human potential through transformational teaching and learning experiences” (Meyer, Maeshiro, & Sumida, 2018, p. 17). As a Native Hawaiian early childhood educator in Hawaiʻi, I feel compelled to nurture the children’s emerging sense of place and self to empower them with a strong sense of connection and identity. Although not all the children in my care are Native Hawaiian by blood, they are being raised within a place and a culture that requires each of us to be cognizant of that place and culture. As Meyer (2016) stated, “what will be vital in this century is Culture––a way of being unique to place and people” (p. x). Meyer further clarified that “as a point of history, let it be known that we [Hawaiians] never did privilege” [ideas of race, ethnicity, and blood] as “points of separation” (p. x). There have been efforts to colonize and erase our Hawaiian language and culture for generations (Goodyear-Kaʻōpua, 2013; Kanaʻiaupuni, 2006). My hope as an educator is that each of us––children, educators, and families––will grow to embrace our kuleana, our responsibility and privilege, as people living in this unique and storied place.

Author Biography

Donna Reid-Hayes

Donna Reid-Hayes is a Native Hawaiian, early childhood educator in Honolulu, Hawaiʻi. She holds her MEd and EdD from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. Her research centers on how the interweaving of Hawaiian Culture-based education and Reggio Emilia-inspired pedagogies has transformed her practice within her kindergarten classroom, as well as her growing sense of indigeneity. Donna utilizes the concepts of moʻokūʻauhau (genealogy) and moʻolelo (story) to build understanding of her experiences and pedagogical choices. She believes passionately in the competence and drive of the young child and sees culture and place as having an integral role in their development.



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