Herman Aizawa

Alana Folen
Wednesday - December 16, 2009
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Retired state Department of Education superintendent Herman Aizawa will always have a soft spot in his heart when it comes to fostering the education of Hawaii’s youths. And although he relinquished his role as superintendent of schools in 1998, he’s now using his love for the ukulele to help the adjudicated and incarcerated youths at Olomana Youth Facility.

“Creating ukuleles has been my avocation for over 17 years,” Aizawa says. “When my good friend Mrs. Laverne Tarumoto suggested that we do something to help the youths at Olomana Youth Facility centered around building ukuleles, it was as good as done. In our program, we build ukuleles and we build wisdom. We define wisdom as taking all of one’s knowledge and experiences and using them for the benefit of others.”

According to Aizawa, pictured above in Monaco, each student builds a tenor ukulele over the course of a semester, and in 2008 he was able to take nine students to a Board of Education meeting at Kaelepulu Elementary School to share skills learned during the five-month process.

“We know that if there can be a noticeable change over the next several years after they leave the program for even one or two students, then it has been worth the effort,” Aizawa says.


Aizawa appeared on MidWeek‘s cover in September 1994, soon after taking on the role of Hawaii state superintendent of education. Following his tenure as superintendent, he served as principal of McKinley Community School for Adults before retiring in 2001. For Aizawa, it’s always been his calling to help others and foster generations to come.

“I guess, once a teacher, always a teacher,” he says. “I think back to what I expected of my principals and teachers when I was superintendent, and now I again have the opportunity to make a difference in a child’s life.

“I always felt that if each student can relate to one adult on campus to make a difference in his or her life, we would have made the needed difference and done our jobs as educators. I want to have that impact on as many students as I can in the time that I spend in our program,” Aizawa says, noting that his mother, who was widowed at 42, has always been his biggest hero.

In turn, Aizawa’s students have taught him just as much, if not more, about about life’s lessons and what it means to be a good person.

“I learn as much from my students as I hope they learn from me: patience, humility, understanding, respect, acceptance, caring, love, forgiveness and all of the other qualities that we need to be good human beings, we need to learn from each other,” he says. “In order to do that, we must all be both students and teachers.”


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