Teaching In Hawaii

Aloha friends!  I can't believe it has taken me this long to write this post!  I started my blog two years ago and in that time I have shared a lot about my little classroom here in Hawaii.  I have made virtual friends from all over the world and have learned so much from others in the process.

Over these few years I have received so many emails from teachers who want to know more about teaching here in Hawaii.  The allure of living and working in the middle of the pacific on a tropical island seems like paradise!

I hope to answer basic questions that some of you may have about teaching and living here in Hawaii.

Hawaii is always in need of teachers.  I have yet to meet someone who has applied here and been turned away.  Many teachers get hired and come here, but often they don't stay for more than a few years.

To take a look at what is available here in Hawaii start here with this link {Job Listings}.

Hawaii is a small state, but consists of 8 different islands.  The schools are all under one system, but divided up into different districts.  When considering working here, you need to decide which island or islands you would like to live.
Oahu is the most densely populated.  Here is a site for more statistics {click HERE}

If you are looking for a more secluded island I would suggest the Big Island, Maui, Kaua'i, Lanai, or Molokai.

Once you apply there is the initial interview.  From what I have heard, you have to come here for the interview unless they are recruiting somewhere on the mainland.  During this interview they will ask you what islands and districts you are willing to work. This can be tricky for some people if they don't know where they want to go.  I suggest you do your homework and read up on the different districts and schools.  Check out the school websites and see if the school might be a good fit.

After the intake interview, your name will be placed on a list.  The list will be given to the schools in the districts you applied to.  The schools will then call you to come in for an interview. You cannot go to the schools yourself.  If a school calls you for an interview and you do not want to work in that particular school, it can be marked against you.  After you turn down 5 different schools, I think you will be taken off the list.  That's what I have heard, it may be different now.

Once you accept a position you are on probation for 3 years.  You cannot transfer districts within that 3 years, so make sure you are where you want to be!

Starting salary here is $45,000.  It seems high, but so is the cost of living.  Food and housing will quickly deplete your income! A loaf of bread is $5 or more, cereal will cost you the same and fresh fruits and vegetables are very expensive in the grocery stores.

The rent has gone way up in the 11 years I have lived here.  Here is a list of available apartments on the island of Oahu.

Another thing to consider is that the pay scale does not offer yearly increases.  You must earn PD credits to move up on the pay scale. {insert sad face here}  For every 15 hours of PD classes you complete, your salary increases by about $1500.  Essentially if you don't take any classes you could be at this salary for a very long time!!

So if you can handle the high cost of living, then the next thing to get ready for is the cultural change. Although Hawaii is part of the United States, it is a very different place to live.  Hawaii is a melting pot of so many different cultures.

Depending on the area of the school you are in, you will most likely have several ELL students.  One year I had a Spanish speaker, 4 who spoke Portuguese, 2 who spoke Japanese  and one who spoke German!

There is also the local dialect which will take you a bit to get used to.  I wrote a post about it awhile back. {CLICK HERE FOR POST}

Hawaii is an amazing place.  The history and culture are rich and diverse.  It is the most isolated of all the island chains.  The weather is about as perfect as possible, we don't often have horrible storms or hurricanes.  I have had to evacuate my home twice for tsunami warnings, but nothing came of both experiences.
There is always good and bad when you decide to move to a new place.  I adapted here very well.  I lead a very active lifestyle and LOVE surfing.  But, I do have to go to work everyday just like everyone else.  The hardest part about being here, is being so far away from my family in Colorado and Arizona.

However, my daughters have grown up in a small secluded little bubble, which I am happy about.  I found a school and community that I love working in and I enjoy the casual vibe of living here.

I live in a tiny house and drive a tiny car. I don't even have cable TV.  We don't have many material goods and quite often we leave the house without locking the doors.  

If you are adventurous, open minded and willing to go without certain material wealth, then I would say Hawaii would be a great place for you to teach!


  1. Thank you for a lovely post. I can only sit here in knee deep snow and imagine your world. It does sound glamorous, but as in any world there are many different things to see and do. Good, bad, and even ugly sometimes. (I find it hard to think of anything ugly in your world) It does sound like the perfect place for you and your family. While you may say you don't have a lot of worldly goods, you ARE rich in family and life. THAT'S the perfect (or near perfect!) world,

    1. Mahalo Patty! I agree. I have never been one who tries to keep up with the Jones's. I do get a bit jealous when I see friends with huge homes and fancy items, but I wouldn't trade it for my quiet little life :)

  2. Ooooo, tahnk you for sharing all that info. If I left NE, Hawaii is absolutely a place I'd consider. I come from Miami, FL, so the wethere is right up my alley, and the high cost of living is something I know how to deal with. Plus I am already an ELL teacher soooo, sounds nice huh? LOL Too bad I currently love my school and district, but if things change for me, you might find me as your neighbor my friend. :P
    Ms. K/1 ELL

  3. Thanks for sharing this!
    Your life sounds amazing :)
    We have tons of snow over here so surfing days is music to my ears!
    Miss Elementary

  4. Our son recently graduated from UH, Manoa and we had the opportunity to visit several times. I LOVE the vibe on the islands. It's so chill and the people are genuinely happy. You're so right, you don't need lots of material things to make you happy. What a blessing for you and your ohana to call Hawai'i your home. Your students are also blessed to have you. Thank you for sharing this with us.

  5. Hi Corinna!

    I just wanted to let you know that I nominated you for a Sunshine Blogger Award! I was first drawn to your blog because of the amazing title and I kept reading because of all the great content! I just wanted to spread some sunshine, so I nominated you!

    Head over to my blog for details.

    Teaching Voracious Learners

  6. Corinna, you have written a wonderful post about living and teaching here! As I was reading, I kept saying "Yup, yup, yup!" :)

  7. I was wondering many of those things. Not that I am considering moving but wondered. Thanks for answering all those questions.

  8. Thanks for the interesting read. I'm an English teacher in Virginia and I will be moving to Oahu in a month. I'm looking forward to working there. I'm moving there because of my husband's job, and I don't know anyone. This piece was very insightful. Please feel free to share any other advice that a newcomer could use. Thanks again!

  9. Kind of left field question here, but what font do you teach for handwriting in Hawaii?

  10. Kind of left field question, but what font do you teach handwriting over there?

  11. You seem to have a real positive view on teaching in Hawaii. Most bloggers and reports have stated poor conditions, overcrowded classes, poor treatment of teachers, and unlivable wages. Any truth to that?

  12. My father was 3rd generation born & raised in HAwaii. It has always interested me to teach in Hawaii. Thank you for your post & info.

  13. Corinna,
    I went to HPU and UH Manoa for 3 and a half years for college but returned to the mainland because the lack of professors left me with a future of finishing a 4 year degree in double the time. As a teacher in upstate Vermont, I am looking back to Hawai'i as it has always been in my heart. The move wouldn't be so intimidating this time around but now, I am a single mama of a sweet little toddler. Your post is inspiring me that this can be done - hopefully I will be back in the islands soon enough if brave enough to make the leap! Love to you and yours!

    1. Aloha Kate! I am sure you will make the right choice for your family. I know our life choices can be scary sometimes, but things always seem to have a way of working themselves out.

  14. Corinna,

    This post was so helpful. I'm in my 5th year of teaching in Oregon and my family lives in Maui. I'm considering moving out there, but the cost of living is one of my biggest concerns. This post was really helpful and has definitely given me more insight, thanks for taking the time to post this.

  15. Hello and thank you for this post! I recently spent a couple weeks in Oahu, visiting friends, and I completely and utterly fell in love. I already knew the cost of living was high and I researched the average salary and other cost of living factors. However, I have so many questions about the school district, demographics, and school culture.

    All of my teaching experience has been in low-performing, low-income, urban settings (Chicago and New Orleans). I am very comfortable working in data-driven environments. However, I have had my share of moments where the lack of respect from parents/scholars have made me question my career choice and/or school setting. I'd like to think I have a pretty good grip on classroom management. But, some issues are just too big for me to solve on my own in class due to the root of the problem being home related (aggressive scholars, truancy, lack of support from parents, etc).

    I have heard that the school system in Hawaii is a "nightmare" and that I should be prepared to have a roommate and 2nd job. But my logic is... the cost of living was expensive in Chicago and the tax was 10.2% when I lived there (only 4. something in HI). I got paid very well in Chicago but had no resources so my paycheck was being funneled back into work. I moved to New Orleans where the cost of living is cheaper. Although my school provides me with all of the resources I need to be effective, my salary took a 17k hit. So I needed to pick up a few (3 to be exact) side gigs to have enough money for savings and fun. With all of these experiences in mind, I don't see how Hawaii can be too much different than what I've already been exposed to.

    I'm just hoping for a more enjoyable day to day with my students. Where I am not getting cussed at by parents and/or scholars, dealing with "lock downs" due to gun violence, and where growing and the love of learning is more important and praised than silence and obedience from scholars.

    I will browse your blog some more. I truly am glad I typed in the correct keywords on google lol. Hopefully, I'll be able to ask more specific questions as the school year goes on.

    Best regards!

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  17. So glad I found your page :-)
    I'm a teacher in Japan but from TN. My wife and kids are quite interested in HI but as a family provider, I'm afraid of the COL. We don't live a lavish life now. And we don't need to. I'm a white guy but love diversity and since my wife is Japanese, we should fit in well.
    However, I have two friends who lived in HI for years and they both talk like it's not the best idea, citing homelessness, COL, crime and other things. Another problem is that I have a job here now and the really like me. Job security is hard to give up.
    I know you can't tell me what I should do but I just wanted to say it's nice to see something positive, for once, about teaching on the islands.

  18. It's good to find this page due to all the negativity I've found on the subject of teaching in HI.
    I'm an American expat who has taught English in Japan for 12 years. My wife is Japanese and we've talked about moving the family to the islands. Honestly, the cost of food and gas is not that different from here in Japan. The housing though, hooo!
    I have a few friends who have lived there and they both seemed to try and deter me from moving there. From massive homelessness to hidden costs that don't really get noticed until you actually try and live there and all points in between, they don't paint a rosy picture.
    I've got a great job now but really fancy the idea of living on the big island or honolulu. The truth is I like the idea of being surrounded by diversity in culture and nature. I love the ocean, though my pale skin will need to slowly get used to the sun.
    Anyway, I'm not sure what to do. I want to go for it. But honestly, this is the one of the few positive opinions I've found.
    Do you have any advice or words of encouragement for moving to HI and becoming a teacher?

    1. Aloha Jonathan! Japan would be an amazing place to live and work. Since you understand the cost of living I am sure the transition here would be pretty minimal. You really need to find the right place for your family. There are different pockets of people and communities all around the island. I live on Oahu which is densely populated, but I know Maui is great for families and maybe a bit more affordable for a home. I think you really need to visit and do some research on where you might want to live and work. I live on the North Shore which is a surf community. I am 4 blocks from the ocean and love it! I can surf and play in the ocean whenever the need arises :)

  19. Hi there! I am finishing my masters degree in environmental science with a focus on sustainability and education. I was actually just on the North Shore a few weeks ago visiting my best friend! I don't have a teaching license or anything but I have filled out an application for Teach for America to see if I would like it. I have thought about going into the teaching world, but do you have any tips for the best and quickest way to obtain the credentials necessary? Thanks!

  20. Hello. Thank you for your blog! I am a secondary science teacher who has always dreamed of teaching in Hawaii. I have a family and 3 dogs that would accompany me. What island/district do you recommend? Are you familiar with PLTW? I teach biology and PLTW Environmental Sustainability. Thank you. Jennifer

  21. Wonderful read! I recently received a contract in Maui, and I think I'm going to take it! I am graduating this May with my bachelors and have spent my entire life in the Midwest. Think it's time for my big adventure. Thanks for the post :)

  22. Aloha Corinna! As a teacher in Hawaii, it's great to relate to similar experiences. Our island is full of great culture and a wide variety of different people and languages. This creates opportunities for teachers in the classroom to enhance their teachings by making learning relatable for our students in the classroom. We have the chance to learn about the values of the Hawaiian culture and the culture within our schools. Thank you for sharing!


Mahalo Nui Loa For Commenting!!

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