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Curriculum Specialist

Maya Lindsley Kawailanaokeawaiki Saffery was born and raised in Koʻolaupoko, Oʻahu and is an ongoing student of the language and culture of her ancestors. With a Bachelor’s degree in Hawaiian Language and a Master’s of Education in Teaching degree from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa (UHM), she became the Curriculum Specialist for Kawaihuelani Center for Hawaiian Language at UHM in 2005. In this capacity, she is responsible for researching, developing, implementing, and evaluating graduate and undergraduate curricula for use within Kawaihuelani as well as out in the broader community.

The philosophy that guides her work is grounded in her belief in the importance of the kanaka-ʻāina relationship and its fundamental connection to the education of our students. In order to promote Hawaiian as a living language, she is committed to researching, developing, implementing, and evaluating authentic, hands-on language learning experiences that take place within and beyond the classroom walls. She recently led the Hawaiian language development of a newly published curriculum entitled Welina Mānoa where students and families are confronted with acts of erasure that have occurred throughout Mānoa’s (post)colonial history but are also introduced to stories of survivance by ‘ōiwi (natives) of Mānoa who refuse to be silenced and forgotten. Her place-based philosophy is also evident in her research of traditional and contemporary moʻolelo (living narratives that take the form of stories, histories, and literature) for wahi pana (sacred and significant places) of Hawaiʻi.  In 2009, a book published by Kailua Historical Society entitled Kailua: I Ke Oho o ka Malanai was released, featuring four chapters written by Maya that focused on the generations of Hawaiians who established a relationship with the wahi pana of Kailua centuries ago and the subsequent generations of Hawaiians and Kailua residents who are still working to negotiate their own relationships in times of constant change.

Research Interests

My overarching research interests include Hawaiian language and culture revitalization; culturally grounded, Hawaiian place-based, and experiential curriculum and program development; and traditional and contemporary living narratives for sacred and significant places of Hawaiʻi.

My current doctoral research on place-based education and critical pedagogy of place explores what it means to apply these popular educational theories and practices in an indigenous context. Motivated by a lack of clarity and need for further inquiry into this topic, I am developing a working definition of “Hawaiian place-based curriculum” through a critical analysis and evaluation of existing, successful Hawaiian place-based educational programs. Ultimately, it is my hope that my research will better equip educators to assess existing materials they are using or are involved in creating and self-reflect on their individual roles in developing and implementing this kind of curriculum in a Hawaiian context so that students will eventually only be exposed to authentic, rigorous, and thoughtful learning experiences that merit the words “Hawaiian” and “place-based” in their titles and descriptions.

Community Engagement Work

Much of the success at Kawaihuelani is dependent on the success of the Kula Kaiapuni (immersion schools), and their success is greatly multiplied when programs like Kawaihuelani provide support for their growth and advancement. My community engagement work is focused on the development of effective, innovative, and culturally grounded Hawaiian language curricula and programing for kula kaiapuni teachers, students, and families. Most recently, I partnered with Dr. Sam L. Noʻeau Warner in the development and piloting of the first undergraduate course at UHM tailored specifically to kula kaiapuni students. HAW 200 I Ka ʻŌlelo Nō Ke Ola is a four-credit course designed to bridge fluent speakers of Hawaiian mainly from the Kula Kaiapuni into the system of Hawaiian being taught at Kawaihuelani. In Spring 2013, UHM’s Early Admissions Program and the Hawaiʻi P-20 Partnerships for Education Program supported the first pilot of this course and its early admissions component where Kula Kaiapuni high school seniors enrolled at UHM, went to class with kula kaiapuni graduates who were already students at UHM, and in the end earned both high school and college credits. The goal is to eventually institutionalize the early admissions competent of HAW 200 at UHM, thus opening the doors to the first Running Start program for high school students at UHM.

Office Phone: 808-956-4028

Office Location: SPALDING 253B


Click here to view Maya Kawailana Saffery’s Curriculum Vitae

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