LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Yvette Bright-Poai

Position: Psychology and Sociology Teacher
School: Waiakea High School
School District: Hawaii Public Schools
City, State: Hilo, HI

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Yvette Bright-Poai was nominated by an anonymous student.

After 30+ years of working as an educator at Waiakea High School, Mrs. Poai continues to support all students with her unwavering compassion and desire to prepare them for life after high school. She has a genuine care for her students' education and makes sure they have every tool possible to achieve their best self. Even students who felt left behind by the school system feel understood in her classroom, and her efforts to help them have reinvigorated their passion for learning.

Mrs. Poai has a unique way of teaching that keeps her students engaged and creates a light-hearted atmosphere for her classroom. The sound of laughter is never absent. Students understand her lessons and the importance of what she teaches, but they aren't afraid to have a little fun and make jokes here and there. Most of her lessons are accompanied by a relevant, and often comedic, short story from her life that imparts not only educational knowledge, but practical knowledge, as well. Her addition of life lessons into her curriculum stands out and emphasizes her belief that education should extend beyond the classroom and into things that prepare students for their future.

She does not even need to say it aloud, as her kindness and generosity often speak volumes for her, but staff and students alike know the lengths she would go to protect her students and see them thrive, both in and outside the classroom. She notices when students are gone for long periods of time, or if their productivity and grades begin to slip, and she takes that extra two seconds to make sure they are okay. This is something small and simple, but in a stressful time of deadlines and exams, it makes all the difference for the student and makes them feel seen and appreciated.

Mrs. Poai loves participating in school events. She is an advisor for the senior lu'au event and is a big reason why the event is successful. She focuses on budget, keeps things running smoothly, and invests her own time getting the tiny details in order so it's a night to remember.

"Waiakea High is very lucky and glad to have her," Mrs. Bright-Poai's nominator said. "She does so much for the school and its students. It may not seem like a lot compared to others, but it's in the little things where she leaves her mark. Her magic is in her compassion for the students and the way she contributes to school events. It's in the laughter she brings and her neverending commitment to education."