"My parents loved the water almost more than they loved teaching. So, we grew up surfing as a family every single day before school, and yet we all managed to keep a clean tardy record."
Yuna Kalani

Born in Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii, Yuna’s parents were both educators—mom, a Japanese-born middle school principal of 25 years and dad, a sixth generation Hawaiian who taught science at the University of Hawaii for 33 years. Her destiny seemed fixed from the time she was able to walk. Yuna was born to lead and bred to teach.


When did you know you wanted to dedicate your life to education?

I had a feel for the cadence of education by the time I was ten. My mom and dad have always been committed to the development of teachers and students. So, even at a young age, I would listen to them discuss everything from how teachers manage a classroom to how a school communicates with parents—all between wave breaks. “School on the water and then to school on the land,” they would say.


I liken my role as Principal to riding a wave. I paddle as hard as I can at the beginning of the school year, leaning in to capture the hearts and minds of the students and teachers. Missing that wave is not an option so I tell my team we need to paddle like the water is on fire. Once we “pop-up”—in other words, everyone is interested & paying attention—the ride is exhilarating. That’s an entire wave of teachers and students all engaged in learning—an experience I live for every year.


What are you trying to accomplish as an administrator in the education system?

I want our students to feel a sense of ownership of their learning from the earliest age possible. I want the word “work” to be one of the most exciting words in their vocabulary, so that they take pride in everything they create—from a simple homework assignment to their annual science project. I strive for our school to gift each child with that mindset.

How does bulb help you do that?

I want East Elementary to provide the best education possible and also be a place where every child feels a sense of worth, belonging and appreciation. When our teachers use bulb to track the progress of students’ writing, reading and more, the student has a very tangible artifact of their learning. They can also introduce students to reflecting on their work and improving it with revisions. The way bulb is designed, it gives the kids a great sense of accomplishment.

As an administrator, bulb is a great tool for teacher development too. I require all new teachers to track their professional development goals in bulb. I work with all our teacher mentors to help them identify growth areas for their protégés.

Ultimately, what I do is recreate all the amazing conversations I had with my parents—between waves—with my staff. My experience has been that these transferrable principles resonate and multiply in and through the lives of the teachers, mentors and their protégés. Ultimately my parents’ wisdom influences the lives of every teacher and student. bulb collects all the learning from those conversations and allows us to be intentional about our professional development.

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