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Mahina Anguay, Principle of Waimea Highschool

Driven yet humble, Mahina Anguay has a quality about her that inspires you to join in on the progressive vision she has for our Westside youth. Though her journey isn't what she had planned, each step and experience has worked together to equip her and position her in a place of influence for meaningful change in our education program. Her ability to stay focused on the big picture and gather a team that is as committed as she is, means that her work is continually expanding, gaining momentum each year. Read on and listen to the live interview to learn more about her story and how her persistence and vision is making huge moves in our community.

What were you like as a child and what was your interaction with education, your school experience?

My brothers and I were born In LA and my parents moved us to Kauai when I was in the 4th grade, kicking and screaming. We didn’t want to move here. My dad had worked a job on the Big Island and when he returned home he made the decision to move us all to Hawaii. It was a little rough, coming from California where you dressed for school - I definitely remember going to Waimea Elementary School wearing my Easter dress with my shoes and frilly socks. I showed up and seeing all the other kids barefoot and in shorts I asked myself where was I?! But my brothers and I loved growing up in Waimea. We lived in the teacher cottages which is now the neighborhood center when we first moved. My parents built a house, directly across the street from the school - which is where I live now.

We grew up around this school; we played, we road our bikes around this school, we played in the gym, we swam in the pool every day, we played on the tennis courts. So its highly ironic that I ended up back here because when I graduated I couldn’t wait to get away from here. Its nice that God has a sense of humor.

Mahina and her staff at the Insight/Onsite Conference at Waipahu HS, just before COVID last year

What has been your process of innovation within a traditional school, transitioning it into something new?

While I was attending personal development programs I began to think about what I thought school should look like. When I was a VP at Kauai High I attended a conference in Tennessee and that's where I saw what I thought Highschool should be like. It was driven by pathways, with smaller learning communities, where kids are grouped according to their pathway, and teachers are working together closely. Its a different way of working within school where college classes line up to the program.

To convince others I did what Miss Payne had taught me; you take people with you to see what it is you want. Working through a process of removing silos and getting more people open to talking about it, keeping the vision of whats best for our kids at the forefront. It starts with a core group of people, early adapters, and then you push. As people talk and see new ways of doing things, you begin to slowly move the needle and over time create a movement.

Mahina with husband Leo, and grandkids Brooke and Braxton

How did the varied experiences, this zig zag journey you talk about, show you that you were made for this work?

I had encouragement and successes along the way. Each step showed me my strengths and opportunities to make lasting change.

The other piece is that I know I am driven. Even with everything on my plate when I was going back to school, I was a single parent, working two jobs - I still made straight A’s. That was important to me.

When I switched from Kamehameha to the DOE, I could really see the disparity between the different institutions. The whole idea of equity and trying to figure out how to build supports where it was needed mattered to me. I knew that was what I wanted to do. It became a fire within me that drives me forward.

What makes you come alive?

Seeing growth in our school, watching teachers embrace this new way of doing school and taking the leadership role so that I can step back. Seeing pieces come together so that this type of learning can continue.

For me school has to be more than what happens here between 8 and 3. Learning should never be defined by walls, it can happen everywhere. It should be open. It should be fluid.

ʻAʻohe pau ka ʻike i ka hālau hoʻokahi. #203

All knowledge is not taught in the same school.

[One can learn from many sources.]

Full feature included in the recording above.

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