Teacher Feature: Monica Nonaka

  • STEM instruction is a big part of how Monica teaches her students to prepare them problem-solving skills sure to be useful in the ever-changing future.

  • Fourth-grade Konawaena Elementary School teacher Monica Nonaka poses with her eager class. (Courtesy photo)

Fourth-grade Konawaena Elementary School teacher Monica Nonaka finds herself in the unique situation of being charged with preparing students to be college and career ready, while not knowing what the future workforce will look like.

To some this may be problematic, but Monica sees this as an opportunity to focus on skills she wants students to have when they leave her classroom.

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When it comes to skill building, Monica looks at the whole child and Social Emotional Learning (SEL) plays a large part in Monica’s classroom. She wants students to have an awareness about themselves, take responsibility for their actions, be aware of the world around them and build positive relationships with others. Her students learn to be problem solvers, decision makers with confidence and optimism in all they do.

In addition to being a classroom teacher, Monica serves as the Robotics program coordinator at Konawaena Elementary and as West Hawaii VEX IQ League coordinator. She finds teaching STEM, coding and robotics ties in well with SEL. Coding, robotics and STEM lessons include a challenge or problem to be solved. Teams are required to think creatively and solve numerous problems along the way. There is never an answer key or “one right way” of creating a solution, which mimics the workplace.

Konawaena Elementary teams work independently and with other West Hawaii teams to build a robot that will do the best at solving a challenge. Through this program students learn engineering, building, and programming while developing skills in cooperation and teamwork. Students also develop perseverance as there is continuous improvement and problem solving throughout the robotics process. By the end of the season, students have a greater confidence in themselves and the idea they are capable of doing challenging things.

Monica is a graduate of Hookena School and Konawaena High School. She has a bachelor’s in Psychology, a teaching certificate, Master of Arts in Teaching and is currently working on earning a STEM Leadership Certificate from Columbia Teachers College.

In her spare time, Monica enjoys dancing hula with Halau Kaeaikahelelani, fishing, and spending time with her family. Monica’s family includes husband Dylan and sons DJ and Mason. Monica’s mother is a teacher at Konawaena High and her father is a local fisherman.

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Mahalo, Monica, for all you do in preparing students to bravely face their unknown future.

Teacher Feature is a partnership among the West Hawaii Department of Education, Hokupaa, and Delta Kappa Gamma Rho Chapter.

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