Saturday, July 14, 2018

Aloha, Jarand

We bid our final farewell to our second son Jarand in a Celebration of Life last weekend. Our family was overwhelmed with the outpouring of love from such a diverse group of people who all were positively impacted by Jarand in some way. The stories people shared about our son were heartwarming and made us proud to have raised such a generous and caring person who made others feel welcome and included.

I grappled with the idea of going public with why Jarand was taken from us when he was just 38 years old and lived life with purpose and passion. It was a difficult decision, but one I think needs to be shared.

Back in January, Jarand went to renew his prescription for his contact lenses. During the examination, his optometrist was alarmed that his eyes were hemorrhaging and immediately sent him to the emergency room. He was hospitalized for five days while they ran tests. Jarand's blood pressure was highly elevated, his heart was enlarged, and he was diagnosed with Stage 5 Kidney Disease. How could we have missed the signs? Jarand was an active young man, and now, his world as he knew it, was about to change drastically. I was ignorant and needed to do research on Chronic Kidney Disease. I knew people who were on dialysis, but I never knew that it is called "the silent killer" because often, there are no symptoms. According to an article, "Chronic kidney disease takes heavy toll in Hawaii," 1 in 7 adults in America are affected by CKD, and the number of deaths has doubled in the past twenty years. In Hawaii, according to statistics, the number of kidney dialysis patients rose 42% between 2006 and 2014. Sobering statistics.

At first, Jarand was in denial; he insisted that he felt fine and was not experiencing the symptoms associated with CKD. To his credit, he read the information that was shared with him, listened to his doctors, followed up with his blood tests and medical appointments, took his medication, changed his eating habits (this was difficult because he loved good food and posted photos on Instagram with the hashtag 'foodporn'), took his blood pressure every morning and evening, and started exercising more regularly. He went to an information session about kidney transplants, and we were ready to be tested to see if any of us were a match for him. Whenever we called or texted Jarand, he insisted that he was doing well. After his last appointment with the nephrologist, Jarand was optimistic; his numbers were improving, and he was very close to being Stage 4 instead of Stage 5. His diligence seemed to be paying off.

On May 19, Jarand went on a Pokemon Go raid with his brother, his nephews, and some friends. When they parted, he hugged and kissed his nephews and said he would be at Jace's soccer game the next day. He called Randy and me and said he had an early appointment with some clients. He went to sleep and passed away peacefully sometime that evening or early the next day. The cause of death, according to the coroner, was Stage 4 Kidney Disease.

I share Jarand's story because so many of us neglect to take care of our health. Jarand didn't look sick. He had actually lost weight (sudden weight loss is a symptom of CKD) and I, as well as others, complimented him on how great he looked. If only I knew . . . In hindsight, we were being optimistic (or were we naive?) that if  Jarand took care of himself, and if one of us were a match for a transplant, he would have a second chance at life, albeit one with restrictions. Sadly, that didn't happen.

On July 11, 2018, the Honolulu City Council unanimously approved Resolution 18-134 to name the tennis complex at the Patsy Mink Central Oahu Regional Park after our second son. We are humbled by this honor; this 20-court world-class facility hosts national as well as local tournaments, and it is well-utilized throughout the year by players of all ages. Jarand loved tennis and other sports, but he also loved coaching. He had a positive influence on his players, and they and their parents were among the many who attended his Celebration of Life. At the City Council meeting, Randy shared our testimony, then he read a card we received from one of Jarand's players:

Dear Jarand's family,
       Jarand was my soccer coach when I was in middle school. We were called "Chaos!" I played soccer at MHS and then on to college at Pacific University in Oregon. I remember at one practice he made us practice celebrating because he said when we score, we were emotionless. LOL! So he made us scream & jump & even do a victory dance if we scored! I used my celebration skills throughout my whole soccer career. I am now 30 years old and am so grateful for Coach Jarand and that time he gave us . . . He coached us for free! We all loved him.  
Love, Brenda Sekigawa

Brenda substitute taught and coached fitness until she became a flight attendant for a major airline. Presently, she works with youth at her church, so she is paying it forward by positively impacting other young lives just as Coach Jarand influenced her's.

We lost Jarand to a disease that is preventable. By sharing Jarand's story, I hope that all those who knew him - as well as those who will see his name at the Jarand M.Y. Iwase Tennis Complex - will take the time to get regular medical checkups so any symptoms, can be addressed immediately before it gets to Stage 4 or 5. As Glen Hayashida President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Kidney Foundation of Hawaii stated, "The solution to address the issue of chronic kidney disease cannot be building more dialysis centers, but unfortunately, that seems to be the track we're on. It's just too expensive of a solution, so we really need to look at prevention. That's really the key to chronic disease."

As a parent, we never think we will outlive our child. I know that Jarand is giving us permission to tell his story so that others will not have to experience the pain of losing our loved ones to chronic kidney disease, the silent killer. Let's take the time to hug those we love a little harder, to live each day to the fullest, to treat others well, and most importantly, to take care of ourselves.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

So What’s Next?

Today is June 30, 2018, my “official” last day of work with the Hawaii Department of Education. I’ve been on vacation for the last seven of those days, and this has afforded me the time to reflect on what’s ahead.

I must say that this vacation has been different for me. In the past, I always had my computer and I was in touch with what was going on back at school. I knew that if I didn’t keep up with emails, I would be inundated when I returned to work. Right now, I still have access to Lotus Notes on my phone but I’m not really responding to queries; I’m forwarding anything important to Principal Arikawa for follow-up. Whenever I was on vacation before, I got up early and took care of my emails before Randy woke up. Then I’d find time when we returned to our hotel to take care of any new emails that arrived and work on anything else that needed to get done - agendas or presentations for upcoming meetings, staff bulletins, school plans, etc. Some vacation, huh?

I am a morning person. That’s just how we were raised in our family. Dad got to work while it was still dark, so Mom got up earlier to prepare breakfast for the family and get us off to a good start. My first job was as a summer pineapple field worker, and if we weren’t at the station and in our seat with our “gang,” the truck would leave without us. As a teacher and a mom, morning routines were important to get the day off on a positive note, and even when our sons grew up, I continued to wake up early in order to get things done. I found that when I became a principal, mornings and evenings were essential in order to get ahead  or to catch up on what I missed during a busy day. I anticipate continuing this routine, but now, I’ll find new ways to fill my time both in the mornings and in the evenings.

The question I’m asked most often is, “So what are you going to do now that you’re retiring?” When I give vague responses, some people knowingly tell me that I’ll be back, at least part-time. Let me say that this is not what I foresee at this time.

I do intend to keep on blogging. When I first became a principal in February 2003, we were encouraged to journal daily. I tried, but when I realized that my entries were starting to sound the same, I quit. I started this blog in 2012, albeit under a different title, and because these are my personal thoughts and reflections, I no longer set requirements regarding how often to blog. I think this is a great time for me to go back and read my original journal entries as well as all my blog posts.  If nothing else, I should see my transformation as a school leader.

Retirement is my opportunity to continue to learn, but now, I’ll be learning new things I didn’t have time for in the past when I was working. I don’t anticipate that my time clock will change; I’ll still be an early riser. Now, though, I’ll have more choices on how to spend my time, and that’s what I’m looking forward to!

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Family Time

We had planned this trip back in February when plans for my family’s reunion were finalized. The location would be at a restaurant in San Jose, so we made reservations for a suite in Burlingame so our family could be together and close enough to drive to make the most of the trip.

When our second son Jarand passed away unexpectedly, I briefly thought abut cancelling the trip but realized that it might be a way to heal. I’m glad I didn’t cancel; Jarand is with us on this trip. This was the first trip he would be taking to California since moving to Las Vegas three years ago. He was looking forward to it.

Randy was so excited to visit his Law School in San Francisco. He hadn’t been back to walk the grounds since he graduated back in 1974. It has changed a lot since then, and as he went through the rooms, he reminisced about the classes he took. We ate at Mel’s Diner where he ate sometimes when he was in Law School and showed us the apartment he lived in during his last year at USF. It overlooks Mel’s Diner. During his three years in Law School, Randy learned how to analyze and synthesize information, skills that have proven useful to him in his many different career choices such as Deputy Attorney General, City Councilmember, Director of Aloha Tower Development, State Senator, Chair of the Labor Appeals Board, and now Chair of the Public Utilities Commission.

This was not my first time in San Francisco, but this time, as we drove around the city, I was particularly drawn to the layout of the city and the architecture of the homes and buildings which was  clearly designed for the city. The tall, narrow Victorian-style homes stacked next to each other appealed to me, but at the same time, I felt somewhat claustrophobic with so little space between the homes. Our son Justin is a realtor and he follows trends around the country. The whole area is the second-most expensive in the country, next to San Jose which is part of Silicon Valley. Honolulu is number four.

On Friday, we visited Randy’s 86-year-old aunt whom we rarely see since she moved back to the mainland about 30 years ago to be closer to her children. It was a long drive by Hawaii standards, but it included crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. What an engineering wonder! We could see the bridge from the distance, and it was even more impressive in person than it is in pictures! (After returning from our day trip, I googled to find out more about the Golden Gate Bridge. I was especially interested in how the workers were protected during the construction. Amazing!) It was wonderful to see Aunty Kike; she has some health issues but is still alert and communicative. I’m sure it was nostalgic for Randy’s family to reminisce about past events, and our grandsons had a wonderful time exploring and discovering in the back yard. Time seems to melt away when we’re with family; the stories that were shared were often acccompanied by hearty laughter.

Saturday was a busy day. Our family reunion was in the evening so we stopped along the way at Levi’s Stadium where the San Francisco 49ers recently relocated to. Since the 49ers was Jarand’s favorite team, we had to visit for him. He would have loved learning more about the history of the team and their philosophy. I could just imagine his excitement as we walked through the museum. SF has always been my favorite team as well, but this year, our whole family will be cheering for the 49ers to have a great season.

One of the great things about Google is finding new places to visit. That’s how we found the Tech Museum of Innovation ( in San Jose. We could have spent all day there; it was a such a fun, hands-on place filled with new learning. I experienced being a bird flying over the city through a short virtual reality activity; truthfully, I wasn’t thrilled about it, but it was definitely something new to try. We tried to experience as much as we could in the hours we had available to us; that’s really not conducive to deeper learning. However, that is what we did since we don’t know if we’ll ever have another opportunity to visit there. I think that’s true when we travel to a new place. In our desire to experience as much as possible, we rush from place-to-place and miss out on the deeper learning. Is that how learning is in school as well?

The Amemiya family reunion was fun; it was great to see relatives we hadn’t seen in years and to talk story. The family is scattered around the country, and many were unable to make the trip due to a variety of reasons. My grandfather is a first generation immigrant, and my grandma is second generation; she was born in Hawaii. Seven children, 21 grandchildren, and many fourth and fifth generations later, our family has grown considerably. Through the power of social media, we keep in touch with what is happening in our lives. I can’t imagine not being connected through Facebook and Instagram!

This was a very busy, short trip to California, packed with activities. Next, we’ll “relax” in Las Vegas and spend time with Justin, Jace, and Jayden before returning to Hawaii. My retirement won’t be official until the end of the month, but I can tell that I’ll adjust. There’s so much to explore and discover and learn!

PS - This was my first time adding to my blog from my iPad. It’s an adjustment, and I don’t know how to add pictures. One more thing to learn iduring my upcoming retirement!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

My Last Day

I'm sitting here in my office for the last time. My actual retirement day is June 30, but I'll be taking vacation days until then.

It's hard to put into words what I'm feeling. I guess the closest word would be "bittersweet." I look forward to the next step in my journey of life, but I know that I'll miss so much about what has been my "normal" for the past 45 years. I am an educator; I will still be an educator, even in my retirement. Our school vision is "Empowering learners to explore, discover, create, and share." I don't intend to stop learning or sharing my thoughts and ideas.

Casual conversations with others are forcing me to face my insecurities. I told Yuuko that I never really learned to swim because during the summer when I was supposed to learn, I got a rash. The doctor thought it was due to the chlorine in the pool. I expressed regret that I am a poor swimmer so Yuuko decided I need to learn now. She gave me swimming lessons at the Y.  I mentioned to Teri that I was thrilled when I was able to replicate a picture in the book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by following the instructions. The next day, Teri brought some art books and art materials for me. (Her husband is a retired art teacher.) When I shared how my grandsons loved the garden at our school, she gave me some gardening tools. Talk about pressure to follow through on my words!

As I sit here in an office that's been mostly cleared out, I am reflecting on the past and looking forward to the future.

What I'll miss most:
  • the people - I believe that it's the students, staff, parents, other school leaders, and those I came into contact with who made this the best possible "job" for me. It was a job, but it didn't feel like a job because I enjoyed myself each and every day. Seeing the growth of our students and our staff was so rewarding!
  • the conversations - I believe that if we don't ask tough questions and really listen to other viewpoints, we are limiting our overall impact. I have grown so much from listening to others, disagreeing sometimes, but always feeling that I have learned from the experience and the discussion. Nothing is set in stone, and listening to different viewpoints made good ideas even better.
  • the challenges - I believe that sometimes, the most difficult challenges help us the most. We have had our share at our school, but putting ourselves in someone else's shoes has helped me to look at challenges from a different perspective. I choose to view challenges as opportunities to work together to problem-solve, to think out-of-the-box to find a win-win. It is possible!
As I reflect on my 15 1/2 years as the principal of Daniel K. Inouye Elementary School (aka Hale Kula Elementary), I feel a sense of calm. I know that as the Department focuses on School Design, Teacher Collaboration, and Student Voice, our school has already been moving in that direction for the past few years. I remember that in my principal interview all those years ago, I shared that as a military-impacted school with students who would be with us for just a few years, my goal was to have them learn and feel aloha so they could take that with them to share at their next school. Today, my vision has changed. I still want our students to learn the important values of our island state, but I want them to also know that through their actions, they can make a difference for others in their school or their community or their state or the world. I am confident that the new principal, Yuuko Arikawa, and her staff will continue to move that vision forward.  

A hui hou, malama pono.

 I was so fortunate to have such a spacious office for the past few years. 

I cross-stitched this for Randy when he was elected to the State Senate back in 1990. When he left office, he brought it home so I decided to put it up in the principal's office when our Administration Building was completed. I am grateful that Yuuko agreed to have me leave it here for her; she will be the next principal. I think the last few lines describe how I chose to lead our school. "I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference."

Monday, June 11, 2018

Our New Normal

It has been three weeks since we heard the news that no parent wants to hear. Our second son, Jarand, had passed away in his sleep. It seemed impossible. We had just spoken to him the night before when he was returning from a Pokemon Go Raid with his older brother, Justin, and two nephews, Jace and Jayden. He was upbeat and spoke about what he had scheduled for the next day.

Jarand had spent a few days in the hospital when he visited Hawaii in January, and when he returned to Las Vegas, he made the effort to change his lifestyle to deal with the heart and kidney issues caused by high blood pressure. In typical Jarand fashion, he followed doctor's orders,  took his blood pressure faithfully and recorded his numbers twice daily, took his medication, ate healthy, and went for long walks. He had been active when he was in Hawaii, playing tennis, bowling, and golfing, but when he moved to Las Vegas, his physical activity declined. Jarand was upbeat and shared that his doctor, whom he described as somewhat of a curmudgeon, had complimented him at his last appointment and told him his numbers had improved. I believe that gave Jarand the motivation to continue what he had been doing, and I cling to the belief that it gave us a few more months with him.

These last three weeks were the most difficult of our lives, and as I look back, I reflect on what has helped us get through the dark days. For me, it was hearing from so many of Jarand's friends, primarily through social media, and realizing how much everyone loved him. It was his boss' comments and the positive impact he seemed to have, especially with new realtors who shared with us about how much he helped them when they first started. It was the remembrances of family and friends who reminisced about our son. It was also my own personal memories of Jarand and what made him special.

I had hoped that Jarand would follow in my footsteps and become a teacher. He had coached his little brother Jordan's soccer teams from the time he was 12 years old, and he was a great coach. He was positive, organized, taught skills and strategies, and made sure the players had fun, showed good sportsmanship, respected the game, and improved as soccer players. Jarand continued to coach or help out teams throughout his years in high school and at the University of Hawaii, even while playing competitive tennis.  I encouraged Jarand to go into education, but he chose to obtain his degree in history instead. I was so disappointed when he told me that he was tired of going to school and did not want to pursue his Master's degree in education.

Three years ago, Jarand decided to leave his job and move to Las Vegas to be there for Justin and his boys. He also wanted to share his love for soccer by helping his brother coach Jace and Jayden. He loved waking up early to watch soccer games on TV, and he was thrilled that Jace would often join him. Jarand was everyone's favorite uncle, often going over to his friends' homes just to play with their children He loved winning stuffed animals at arcades and giving them to his friends' kids or his nephews. One of my favorite photos shows the boys waking up in the morning and discovering the giant teddy bear that Jarand had won for them the night before. Their joy is obvious!

On May 30, the staff at school threw me a retirement party, and Jarand, Justin, Jace, and Jayden were coming from Las Vegas to surprise me. We had the party despite Jarand's passing (though it was no longer a surprise). It was such a special evening, and I was overwhelmed with aloha for all these people who have touched my life. Instead of Jarand being there, Jordan was able to attend in his place. He was able to get a week of emergency leave from his deployment to be with the family. I was so happy to have him with us at this difficult time.

Very few people knew that Jarand had recently applied to be a substitute teacher at Clark County School District. He was looking for a part-time job to supplement his realtor income, and I casually suggested that substitute teaching might be a good option. Again, in typical Jarand fashion, he took action immediately and seemed genuinely excited about the possibility. I thought it was somewhat ironic that just as I was retiring, he was going to experience what it was like to be a teacher. I held out hope that he might even decide to go back to school to become a teacher and do real estate as his side job. Alas, it is not to be.

Randy and I knew that our family needed to be strong and rely on each other for support. I shared with Randy that what was helping me get through this challenging time was a phrase from the movie, "The Last Samurai." When Emperor Meiji asks Nathan Algren (the Tom Cruise character), "Tell me how he died (about the samurai, Lord Katsumoto), Algren replies, "I will tell you how he lived." Jarand impacted so many people in the 38 years of his life. Although I mourn his passing, I choose to remember how he lived. Randy calls this our "new normal." We realize that Jarand is no longer here with us physically, but his legacy lives on. We will do all we can to ensure that he is not forgotten.

As I transition to a new phase of my life - retirement - I am renaming this blog, "A Legacy of Love." It reflects my continuing love for education and my deep commitment to ensuring that our children benefit from the kinds of experiences that prepare them to make a difference. I want them to realize that everyone has something to offer to make this world a better place. Jarand made a difference in many lives; this is how I choose to honor his memory.


Wednesday, June 6, 2018

How Can We Provide Meaningful PD for Teachers?

By the end of this month, I will be retiring from the Hawaii Department of Education. My career as an educator began when I graduated with my degree and secured a job as a Head Start teacher. 45 years and thousands of students later, I end my formal career as a principal at Daniel K. Inouye Elementary School. It has been a most gratifying career!

Just because I'm retiring doesn't mean that I won't continue to follow education issues and do what I can to make a difference. One issue that I've grappled with deals with professional development for teachers. Back in early May, I shared this blog, "Making Time for Teachers to Learn in PLCs" with my Twitter community along with this question: How does your school do PD? There never seems to be enough time for Ts to collaborate and learn together. We tried PLCs this year? Do you have other ideas about differentiating PD for Ts? Please share!

Denise Murai saw my post, and in typical Denise fashion, she saw this as an opportunity for school leaders to convene to discuss this issue. She created an event, and we came up with two driving questions:
  • How does your school create opportunity and time for teachers to learn, collaborate, and share in professional learning communities?
  • How can we differentiate PD for teachers?
Yesterday, an intimate group of school leaders met to talk about PD at our schools. I truly believe that sometimes, it helps to start with a smaller group who are invested in the topic. Sharing our successes and our challenges was valuable because one size doesn't fit all. Every school is different, and every school leader is different. What works for one may not work for another principal at another school. However, just listening to other viewpoints and ideas can help us as school leaders to come up with a plan that could work for our teachers. 

I recently read this blog by Katie Martin, "Do We Really Need PD?" Katie explains the difference between "training" and "learning" and states, "If we want to change how students learn, we must change how teachers learn." After all, the goal of professional development should be to not only gain new skills and knowledge but to ensure that student learning is positively impacted.

I believe that we are on the right track at our school in providing an opportunity for teachers to have input in what they want to learn about. Just as we want students to learn from each other, we also want teachers to be able to do the same. The next step is to ensure that these PD PLCs are positively impacting student learning.

Our teachers shared what they learned in the PLC of their choice with their colleagues. 
We need to make time for teachers to share and learn from each other. 

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Inspirational! "What School Could Be"

Back in 2010, Sir Ken Robinson created this "RSA Animate: Changing Education Paradigms." I loved this video and shared it with our staff because it really hit home with me. Since then, I've watched videos and read numerous books and blogs about changing paradigms in education and how schools need to change to meet the needs of our students who will be living in a far different world. More recently, I've watched "Most Likely to Succeed" and "Ka Helena A`o: The Learning Walk," heard Ted Dintersmith speak at the Education Institute of Hawaii Empowerment Conference this past spring and just finished reading his book, "What School Could Be,"

I am excited and feel validated that Daniel K. Inouye Elementary is moving in the right direction. We are a school with 98% military-impacted, transient students who change schools multiple times during their school career. We are responsible to ensure that our students are learning grade level content. However, rather than teaching through textbooks and worksheets, our teachers are committed to making learning meaningful for students, and we are focusing on project based learning and social-emotional learning to positively impact our students and give them the skills and strategies that can help them to be successful wherever they move to. It is not just about high test scores; it is about learning that "sticks."

 Second graders have learned so much from their garden and even built their own compost bin. Parents marveled at how well these students communicated their knowledge. 

Third graders learned a lot about the history of our community and created websites and Flipgrids to share information so those moving to Schofield would feel more welcomed and connected to their community.

This past school year, we began with a cohort of teachers - about 1/3 of our staff -  who were committed to implementing project-based learning with their students. These teachers supported each other via a professional learning community where they shared successes, challenges, and resources. PBL is a shift in mindset from teacher-directed to student-centered learning, and  teachers shared that they found it difficult at first to let students struggle.  In the end, though, students were able to explore, discover, create, and share about what they had learned at a PBL Student Showcase. It was such a success, and now that students and our school community have experienced PBL, there is no turning back. We are already planning for PBL next year with a school-wide driving question, "How can we make a difference?"

Ted Dintersmith shares that in his travels to visit schools in all 50 states, he saw that "transformational teachers are those who help their students develop four important areas of expertise, the PEAK principles": Purpose, Essentials, Agency, Knowledge.  We believe we are on the right path as we implement PBL at Daniel K. Inouye Elementary School. In an article, Ted Dintersmith shares that he is now working specifically with North Dakota and Hawaii! Ted, consider this an open invitation to visit our school when you return to our state. It would be an honor!