“Soapbox” was launched at the Kamehameha Schools Education Technology Conference in 2013 as a new platform to collaborate and share ideas. Soapbox is an informal session, much in the spirit of mini TED Talks. Speakers are given 5-10 minutes to share an idea, an innovation, or tell a story. The goal is to include student voices as well as innovators, thought leaders, makers, and creatives from industry.

At this year’s conference, we wanted to highlight teacher voices. It was an absolute blast! The hope is that this session could expand into perhaps a quarterly meetup for educators statewide. Here is a summary of the past few years…

Soapbox returned to the KS EdTech Conference on June 4th, 2019. We heard stories from educators in (public, private, charter schools, homeschooling, online learning, and entrepreneurship.) Our theme was ‘A‘ohe pau ka ‘ike i ka hālau ho‘okahi. All knowledge is not learned in just one school. Mahalo to our speakers!

Cecilia CC Chung, Kaʻimiloa Elementary

• Trevor Atkins, Hālau Kū Māna

Dorothy Hirata, University of Hawaiʻi

• Carey Yen, Homeschooling

• Nick Wong, Nalukai Foundation

Soapbox 2015 took place at the Kamehameha Schools Education Technology Conference, on Tuesday, June 9th, at the Blaisdell Center’s Pikake Room. Here was the lineup:

• Genesis Leong, Lead Curator of TEDxHonolulu

• Russel Cheng, Co-Founder of DevLeague, Hawaiʻi’s first coding bootcamp

• Katelyn, kindergartener at Hongwanji Mission School

• Elizabeth Garrison, President of HSTE, Hawaiʻi Society for Technology in Education

• Tiffany Chang & Isabel Wong, Co-Founders of The Canvas, Hawaiʻi’s first student workspace

• Jenny Engle, Teacher Liaison at the Honolulu Museum of Art

• Burt Lum, Executive Director at Hawaiʻi Open Data & Producer of Bytemarks Café on Hawaiʻi Public Radio

Soapbox 2014 took place at the Kamehameha Schools Education Technology Conference, on Wednesday, June 4th, at the Blaisdell Center’s Pikake Room. Here was the lineup:

• Casey Agena, Nichole Adolpho, Punahou School / Kimo Carvalho, Envision Hawai’i

• Marion Ano, Salt Water Apps, HICapacity

• Erin Kinney & Kirra Downing, “mojo managers” for Our Kakaʻako

• Michael Fricano II, ‘Iolani School, JoAnn Jacobs, Mid-Pacific Institute, EdCamp Honolulu

• Chad Nacapuy, Hawaiʻi Department of Education

• Jonathan Honda, Kamehameha Schools Senior, Louise McGregor Award for Outstanding Student Director

• Kaleiohu Lee, Five by Five

At Soapbox 2013, topics included coworking, design thinking, TEDxHonoluluED, and the Google Teacher Academy. We even brought in a “soapbox” platform from our drama department. Here was the lineup:

• Katie Sakys, Kamehameha Schools Sophomore

• Rechung Fujihira, The Box Jelly

• Adam Pating, Punahou School Junior, TEDxYouth@Punahou

• Douglas Kiang, Lab School @ Punahou

• Cathy Ikeda, KS-Hawaiʻi

• Ian Kitajima, Oceanit

• Liz Castillo, Kamehameha Schools, Google Teacher Academy

• Kourtney Puahala, Kamehameha Schools Senior

Japanese Self-Study Vlog

I started learning Japanese back in February. Here’s the backstory.

It’s been a blast so far. たのしいです。 I’ve decided to keep a vlog for fun, for practice, and to track progress. (Vlog located at the bottom. I hope to post monthly updates.)

This is my journey so far. I started out with a vague goal of wanting to speak Japanese, but not really knowing how to get there. I only knew that I didn’t want to learn “textbook Japanese” through a formal study. I had to first learn how to learn Japanese.

There seems to be two schools of thought. One is that you need a system (a good program, daily routine, practice, etc.) The second thought is that you do not “learn” a language, you “acquire” it (immersion.) My premise is that you probably need a little of both.

Month 1: I started collecting a variety of resources (iPhone apps, websites, YouTube, manga, etc.) I quickly discovered that I did remember a little Japanese from my youth (I flunked Japanese school when I was little.) I also remembered about 90% of hiragana, which was a big help. The turning point was when I bumped into a few visiting students from Tokyo on our campus. I wanted to be friendly and have conversations with them. All I could mutter was “konnichiwa.” My essential question became, “so what do I want to be able to say in Japanese?”

Month 2: I quickly discovered that a lot of what I learned in the 1st month was either rude or useless. Words like anata, sayonara, etc. A Japanese YouTuber asked, “Why are foreigners learning a style of Japanese that we don’t speak?” I had to rethink and redesign my methods. I got off the apps and vocabulary recordings and sought out more natural Japanese. This led me to Japanese vloggers, talk shows, and J-dramas. I also started journaling to take notes of important phrases and topics. So instead of being a passive receiver of information, I decided to teach myself what I wanted to learn.

Month 3: I moved more toward the side of immersion. I got into culture, cuisine, and even J-pop, all via YouTube. I watched my first anime and J-drama on the DaiWEEB website. Here you can toggle on-and-off Japanese and English subtitles. Of course some of the dialog is not used in real life, but I learned about body language, gestures, and nuances (masculine/feminine, polite/casual, seniority, etc.) I’m also trying to speak a little now (to coworkers, to myself, and to inanimate objects…)

Self-study has allowed me to make adjustments on the fly, whereas a program would have to be scrapped. Immersion has made this process rich, engaging, and fun. I don’t see it as a “task,” but moreso as “recreation.” 日本語 has become a passion.

They say it takes 2200 hours to become fluent in Japanese (approximately 6 years for one hour of daily study.) I’m “studying” about two hours per day now. And with my Japanese school background, I hope to be able to converse in Japanese in half that time (ETA 2022.)



This is a great era in music. We all have personal listening devices. Music is customized to our individual tastes. Great for the listener, and great for the artist.

But what have we lost?

Back in my high school days, we would all cram into one car and pop in a mixtape. We would cruise through Waikiki while singing our favorite songs. Boston, Journey, REO Speedwagon. Kalapana and C&K. This was the soundtrack of our youth.

At our high school reunion, they played Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Love’s Holiday.” When Maurice White sang,

“Would you mind
If I touched, if I kissed, if I held you tight
In the morning light?”

our class shared the same heartbeat.

Does this still happen today? Not saying that one is better than the other. Love all my playlists on my iPhone. Still, so blessed when I hear Maurice sing,

“Love has found its way, in my heart tonight”

and know that my classmates feel the same.


Wanderlust blog post from 2015

Very blessed to have had opportunities to travel abroad. I realize that I’ve never compiled a record of where I’ve been. This post will help me to remember and reflect…

My very first trip abroad was during my junior year in high school (yikes, dating myself.) It was a band trip to Tokyo, Japan. Unfortunately (or fortunately,) my memories of the trip are only of my friends and the hilarity. Yes, I was too immature to appreciate traveling to a foreign country.

It took two decades before I needed to renew my passport. I was blessed with the opportunity to accompany two of our Kapolei Elementary students on an exchange program with Amano Elementary in Osaka, Japan. What made it truly special was the hospitality of our homestay families. ありがとう。

I went on my very first missions trip. Truly blessed. It was to Okinawa with a team from Hope Chapel Kapolei. We helped with the launch of Hope Chapel Gushikawa. 🙏

Through the JEM exchange program, teachers and students from Kamehameha Elementary and Buckingham Friends (Pennsylvania) were hosted by Glendal Primary in Melbourne, Australia. Heaps of memories.

I was a tag-along (not a chaperone) on Metz’s Spring Trip to Europe. We visited Rome and Florence in Italy, then Barcelona and Madrid in Spain. Bella vita.

I went on a medical missions trip to Mae Sot, Thailand with a team from Inspire Church. On my way back home, I was able to meet up with my Compassion sponsored child in Makati, Philippines. “Best day of my life.”

Later in the year, I traveled to Beijing, China to participate in the RDFZ Xishan International Summit. Made lifelong friendships.

I took a solo, “YOLO” trip to Paris, France. Stayed in the café district. It was a dream-come-true…

Revisited Osaka, Japan and stayed with Daryl. I was able to reconnect with the Yasuda Family who hosted me in 2001. ありがとう。

Bucket list stuff. I chaperoned our Kamehameha High School’s International Relations Club to Machu Picchu and the Amazon in Peru. So awesome.

A few months later, I chaperoned our Japanese Club to Tokyo. We were then hosted by the Takahagi Friendship Association. Amazing hospitality. ありがとう。

I was blessed to chaperone our elementary’s children’s chorus to Aotearoa (Auckland, NZ.) Backed up the chorus on guitar. We visited Hobbiton and shared special experiences with the Bright Family.

Cashed in my HawaiianMiles and traveled to Seoul, Korea. Stayed in Hongdae and had such a great time. 감사합니다。

Just booked a trip to Sapporo, Japan for the Summer Festival. Looking forward to it!

Would love to visit Hong Kong next year, then Taikai in Okinawa in 2021. Hoping in the near future to see Vietnam, Istanbul, Marrakech, London, and Hiroshima. Ahh, wanderlust…

Japanese Self-Study

Turning Japanese, I think I’m turning Japanese, I really think so.”
– – The Vapors

Just recently, I got this sudden urge to learn Japanese. I believe it was sparked by friends posting travel pics on social media. That made me reflect on the wonderful memories of my own travels to Japan.

Flashback. Growing up, my grandmother (obaachan) lived with us. I was exposed to Japanese at an early age. However, I picked up Japanese from watching dad’s samurai shows on KIKU TV. I learned mostly curse words like “chikusho!” To my obaachan’s horror, I was quickly enrolled in Japanese Language School. I really wanted to play Little League Baseball instead, so I hated Japanese School. I didn’t learn the language at all (which I now regret.) 

Because Japanese School failed me (rather, I flunked Japanese School) I chose not to enroll in any type of formal study. I’m going about it via independent study. I’m trying to immerse myself in a variety of mediums to find my own path. So far I’ve watched YouTube videos, started journaling, downloaded iPhone apps, read manga, watched J-dramas, and listened to KZOO Radio on my commute. I even do my grocery shopping at Nijiya Market. Every bit helps…

YouTube seems to be my favorite mode of learning right now. I’ve found a few helpful YouTubers like Risa on JapanesePod101 and Japanese Ammo With Misa. But my go-to channel is Susuru TV. Susuru is a dude who eats ramen everyday. It’s all in Japanese, and there are no subtitles.

I also stumbled upon polyglots on YouTube. I feel validated that self-study is what they do. They said that there are no secrets, shortcuts, or a “language gene” that you are born with. The keys are having fun, finding your way, and doing a little each day.

And I hope to keep it going. がんばります。