Michelle DeBusca was nominated by her colleague, Lori Kwee.
Ms. Debusca is an excellent leader with dedication and a clear vision to provide high-quality learning experiences for all students. She's passionate, and she inspires all those around her with her leadership and caring heart. She conscientiously strives to support all the teachers and staff at her school so they are able to successfully meet the needs of a diverse student population. The school mission statement, "Believe, Achieve, Succeed, Dream Big, and Make Things Happen" reflects the attitude and persona of the school community with pride that everyone is unique and special with talents to share.
"Since she came to Ala Wai School in 2014, Michelle continues to refine and cultivate a culture of kindness, inclusivity, and acceptance," said Kwee. "Through projects led by my third and fourth graders, Michelle listens to voices with genuine care. Her support is incredible as she supported students in a quest to save the critically endangered Vaquita Porpoise, a bully prevention project, a kindness project, and a #sharelaoha brand to raise funds to build a Peaceful Oasis at our school."
"Michelle advocated for us to connect with leaders in our communities to support our goal to create a Peaceful Oasis for everyone to feel connected, accepted, and loved," said Kwee. "Her hopes, along with students' dreams, are to develop an intentional, kid-centered space for kids to find quiet, peace, and to take a moment to share a kind word."
During the 2020 pandemic, Ala Wai School pivoted to 100% distance learning. Ms. Debusca provided incredible support with technology, resources, time, personal protective equipment (PPE), and social-emotional awareness. She provided over 200 Chromebooks to students who did not have access to computers for online learning, and she also called parents to provide support. She is active all over campus, such as by passing out school breakfasts and lunches to students and families as they drive through. Currently, as Ala Wai School plans for a return to learning on campus, Ms. Debusca continues to generously support teachers, staff, students, and families.
"We are an ohana, collaborating with each other, caring for each other, and sharing aloha," said Kwee.
In light of character education, Ms. Debusca models The Leader in Me's eight habits of happy, successful leaders. Her emphasis on social-emotional learning is valued as her staff chooses to nurture the whole person. She's truly an outstanding, innovative, passionate, and dedicated leader who is highly respected. She is a LifeChanger who inspires and empowers others to be compassionate leaders.
Ms. Debusca was also a Tokioka Excellence in School Leadership Award nominee in 2018-2019 to recognize Hawaii's best principals.