Welcome to the SPEDucator Project

The SPEDucator Project is made up of Hawaii DOE special education teachers, who were selected by educational leaders for their passion, ingenuity, and excellence in the field of special education. This inaugural project is a collaboration between the Hawaii Department of Education and UH Mānoa's College of Education, Department of Special Education.

These "SPEDucators" advocate for equity to better serve special education students, parents, and our communities. The focus is to change the narrative and improve educational outcomes and livelihoods for individuals with disabilities.

Follow us on social media: @Some1Special808 #SPEDucatorProject

Project Outcomes


  • To identify and empower current quality special education teachers across the state

  • To collect stories and experiences of current special education teachers as a recruitment strategy

  • To build community, belonging, and support as a retention strategy

  • To understand the current needs and scope of responsibilities of the current special education teacher workforce to inform policy and professional development initiatives

  • To identify strengths and gaps within the pre-service to in-service special education teacher pipeline

  • To build capacity of a quality special education teacher workforce and increase retention of special education teachers over time


Season 2 Announcement: GEER Grant Recipient!

"Thank you for the interest, time, and energy invested in your application for the Governor's Innovation Grant (GEER Grant). Your proposal has been selected to receive GEER funding--congratulations! This was a very competitive and rigorous process, and you should be proud that your proposal is among the top 1% of all applications submitted statewide." - GEER Grant Award Notice

We are excited and humbled to have been chosen as one of 31 innovation grants funded as part of the Governor's Emergency Education Relief (GEER) fund! This funding will allow us to continue this project for SY 2021-2022, with the intent to collectively support more people across our state. We invite special educators, general educators, administrators, teacher candidates, educational assistants, students, families, and any other interested stakeholder in joining us over the next year as we provide events and other opportunities to build community and support one another through these challenging times.

Please join our mailing list so you can be the first to learn of special events and giveaways: bit.ly/808speducate. We are looking forward to building this community across our state!

Congratulations SPEDucators!!

Jenna Oskey

2020-2021 Milken Educators of Hawaii, Teacher of Promise

Established in 2007, the Milken Teacher of Promise award recognizes a teacher who demonstrates excellence in the field and the highest qualities of a professional educator during their first six semesters in the classroom. The award alternates annually between elementary and secondary teachers. Not only did Jenna Oskey win this award for the Pearl City-Waipahu Complex, but she is also the overall winner for the state of Hawai‘i!

Sean Witwer

2021 HSTA Pono Award Winner

This award recognizes an exceptional member who advocates on social justice issues that impact the lives of students, fellow educators, and the community. Nominees must be principal organizers of campaigns or actions to address social justice issues such as, but not limited to: immigration reform, school-to-prison pipeline, equity in education, LGBTQ bias and issues, English-language learner advocacy, racial profiling, voter suppression and/or rights, & bullying.

HB1291: Allocating funding for UH scholarships towards high-achieving students with special needs


Passed, therefore, this bill provides UH scholarship opportunities through the Hawaii State Scholars program to:

  • students who graduated from a Hawaii public high school with a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 and had qualified for and received special education services for two or more years during enrollment in grades seven through twelve.

Recognition & Sponsorship

We would like to thank all the amazing people who have supported and contributed to this project thus far. Mahalo nui loa!

Governor Ige

Thank you Governor Ige for providing the GEER grant opportunity directly to education entities in Hawaii. These grants are aimed to fund innovative initiatives that address the impact that the Coronavirus pandemic has had, and continues to have, on students, families & educators in Hawaii. We are honored, humbled, & grateful to be a recipient of this award for SY 21-22!

Hawaii DOE

Thank you Assistant Superintendent Cindy Covell and Assistant Superintendent Heidi Armstrong for supporting, approving, and funding this project for SY 20-21.

UHM COE: Dept. of Special Education

Thank you Dr. MaryJo Noonan, Dr. Amelia Jenkins, Vanessa Koseki, and all the SPED Department Faculty for creating the Recruitment Specialist position & always supporting these efforts.

Leadership Institute

Thank you Kristen Brummel, Ed Noh, and Elden Esmeralda for being our biggest advocates and for paving the way for this important work. The SPEDucator Project is modeled after the highly successful Hawaii State Teacher Fellows initiative.

Kai Media Marketing

Thank you Raude Nagaishi, Bradley Shin, and Kyle Hamane for being the amazing talent behind project logos, swag, and all marketing/recruitment efforts for Someone Special for Students and the Be a hero. Be a teacher. campaigns.

HawaiiUSA FCU

Thank you HawaiiUSA Federal Credit Union and Cary Miyashiro for sponsoring the first year of this project and always looking for ways to support teachers and public education in Hawaii.

HI Distance Learning Forum

Thank you Ashley Mika Ito and Travis Ito for providing our project participants a safe, nurturing, and confidential space to communicate and engage with one another.