LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Stacie Kunihisa

Position: Principal
School: Kanoelani Elementary School
School District: Hawaii Public Schools
City, State: Mililani, HI

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Stacie Kunihisa was nominated by her aunt, Donna Katsura.

Ms. Kunihisa is highly regarded in the field of education and is a strong voice for public education.  Most recently, she was awarded the National Distinguished Principal of the Year for 2019 and represented Hawaii in Washington DC last October.  In addition, she won the 2019 Masayuki Tokioka Leadership in Excellence Award and received $25,000 for the school and herself. They used the award to build a "Lokahi Lounge," which brings multilingual families into one space to connect and learn how to acclimate to the U.S.  This recognition, in part, was due to the fact that she has brought in over $250,000 in grants to the schools she has led.  It is almost unheard of anyone winning both awards in the same year for any school leader!

As direct evidence of her impact, the state School Quality Survey results speak volumes. The teacher satisfaction rate at her current school jumped from a dismal 50% before she arrived all the way up to 98% in just a few years. She worked relentlessly with the school community, and she spent years cultivating relationships and building a sense of WE > ME across the campus.  She holds events for her staff and students such as Iron Chef cook-offs, a surprise trip to the Bowling Alley for a faculty meeting, and a Rainbow Fun Day for the students to spend their hard-earned points at a carnival event twice a year during the school day.

Ms. Kunihisa goes above and beyond for her school, as well as so many others.  She held the first ever "Choose Love" statewide conference last year and had over 450 educators from all Hawaii islands visit her school on a Saturday.  Imagine all of those teachers and administrators flooding her campus as her staff welcomed everyone into their classrooms to learn how to integrate social-emotional learning into classroom lessons.  These efforts have helped especially during this pandemic, as schools struggle to help kids cope with the crisis. There is such a great need for teachers to address the mental well-being of students and themselves.

Her Choose Love efforts have inspired teachers and students to create the Kanoelani Choose Love Rocks program, which has students painting rocks and spreading them around the world. The rocks, which are individually painted by students, have inspirational messages and are hidden around the community to brighten the lives of others during this crisis.  Some of the rocks, as shown on Instagram, traveled to places such as Italy, Chile, Japan, Philippines, Mexico, Belgium, and even Germany. Recently, a student at Ms. Kunihisa's school won $500 for being a Dream Maker during the COVID-19 pandemic, impacting the community in a positive way through this school effort. 

Finally, in her efforts to support others, Ms. Kunihisa has developed a new online platform, "Principals Helping Principals." It's designed for school principals to discover innovative ways to support distance learning, build community partnerships, and network with each other as they navigate these unfamiliar times in education. She came up with this idea with the intent that school leaders need support right now, and together, they can transform education in ways that have never been explored before. In only three days, she has over 100 school leaders from across the state signed up to start sharing leadership ideas and strategies to support teachers and students.

"Her commitment and passion never ceases to amaze me. I really believe she is a Life Changer in so many ways," said Katsura.

Comments (11)

Susan Pcola-Davis Posted over a year ago

What a wonderful person. She exemplifies leadership. She is a steward for our children, as well as, her staff!!

Sheryl Posted over a year ago

Congratulations Stacie!!! M You are an inspiration to many and always encouraging others to do their best! So proud of you!!! ??????

Rod Shimabukuro Posted over a year ago

Yay Stacie! Oh my! What a GIFT YOU ARE...this Christmas, and this challenging 2020...To all your cohorts, and beyond. Our community is blessed by you and so grateful for your incredible service and leadership initiative and ingenuity. God bless you and your family.

daley Posted over a year ago

awesome..keep up the good PROUD of you

ANGELA DIXON Posted over a year ago

Congratulations Stacie! It is nice to see a worthy administrator getting credit where credit is due!

alex harris Posted over a year ago

Proud of you Stacie! These accolades are well deserved. Mahalo for all you are doing for our young people during these crazy, crazy times.

AA Posted over a year ago

Ms. Kunihisa is by far one of the most influential and inspiring individuals I have met. She not only invests her time in her students but also in every single Individual educator and staff member that works at kanoelani. I am so proud and greatful to be a part of the kanoelani family.

Iona Kaai Posted over a year ago

The love, passion, and dedication Stacie Kunihisa pours into everything she does is inspiring! Having met her 3 years ago, she has changed my life for the better and through that change, has affected change in the life of my 8-year old daughter and my entire family. Prior to meeting Stacie I was satisfied with mediocrity; I didn't realize the potential in myself, until Stacie saw it and invested time, energy, and faith into my development. Now, having worked under her guidance I realize my case was not a one-time incident, this is something Stacie truly lives. Stacie Kunihisa is a true life changer, for the her staff, who she mentors and pushes to be the best they can be, the children she advocates for in her school, and the community she builds relationships with in order to live the motto that We is greater than Me and, We can overcome any challenge.

Genavi Posted over a year ago

Ms. Kunihisa's passion and dedication to the keiki blows me away! I was so stoked to find out that they were including actual values in their curriculum! Forgiveness, Courage and just the whole We>Me concept... is Amazing! Her positive energy and genuine love for the keiki is inspiring!

Janelle Perreira Posted over a year ago

I have never met a more deserving administrator for this prestigious award. Mrs. Kunihisa has been the face of Kanoelani and the Choose Love movement in Hawaii. You would think as an administrator she would be held up in her office with all she needs to do, not Mrs. Kunihisa! We see her opening car doors, walking around campus in the morning and after school greeting all who pass her. I heard stories from my children about her popping in their classroom a couple of times a month to "see how they were doing." I've also seen her at almost all PTA events, fundraising opportunities, and school performances. Mrs. Kunihisa sets the bar high for her teachers, who in turn sets the bar high for their students. I've only seen amazing things come out of Kanoelani. The culture of the school is very welcoming and truly show how they choose love by showing compassion.

Malia Arakaki Posted over a year ago

Ms. Kunihisa is such an amazing principal and also an amazing human being. I admire her for her strength and leadership and the love she has for her job and students and staff. Always so pleasant and supportive and present in all she does. We are grateful for her and look forward to the future with this amazing leader! Mahalo for all you do!