Teach in paradise: what you need to know about Hawaii

What you need to know about Hawaii

The islands of Hawaii are a place of dreams for many. With their combination of awe-inspiring scenery, great weather, and a laid-back lifestyle, plus the ease of traveling there for U.S. citizens, it’s not hard to see why.

But what if your dream vacation destination could become your actual home?

If you’re a licensed teacher (or want to become one) you’re in luck because the Hawaii Department of Education is on the lookout for teaching professionals who want to live and work in Hawaii.

Where do I sign up for a teaching job in Hawaii?

As the exclusive recruiter for the Hawaii Department of Education (HIDEO), Teach Away has several job vacancies available here. HIDEO also organizes out-of-state recruitment fairs throughout the year.

If you are not already a licensed teacher, but you have a degree and are a U.S. citizen, check out Teach Away’s alternative route into teaching in Hawaii here.

How to prepare for a move to Hawaii

Apart from the scenery, weather, and lifestyle, there are many reasons go to Hawaii. How about unique culture inspired by a diverse population that can be found nowhere else in the world? Or the fact that it’s a paradise for surfers, divers, and hikers? Or all the delicious poke you can eat?

This all sounds dreamy but, as you know, moving somewhere is not the same as going on vacation there. As well as ticking items off your tropical island bucket list, a move to Hawaii will also mean some apartment hunting, weekly shops, laundry, finding new friends, and––of course––teaching!

Although these aspects of life are decidedly less glamorous they will be the mainstays of your time in Hawaii and might just prove to be the source of a real and rewarding life in the Aloha state.

So, how can you make a move to Hawaii go more smoothly? And what will it be like to teach there? Glad you asked...

7 things you can expect when you move to Hawaii to teach

When you move to Hawaii

You’ll get into the great outdoors...

This factor might be the very reason you’re keen to pack up and move to Hawaii in the first places –– 🏝beaches, ☀️ sunshine, and ✌️ good vibes! And you’re sure to find all that. Hitting up the beach after work will definitely be an option and there is plenty to keep surfers, snorkelers, and hikers busy.

However, you won’t find as many of the kinds of cultural activities you would in big urban centers in mainland U.S., such as theatres, new restaurants, and big exhibitions. Hawaii also doesn’t really have seasons in the way many other states do. In Hawaii, you’ll experience a hot summer and an almost equally as hot winter. If you’re big into winter sports or enjoy big city culture as a way to relax, make sure you’re ready for a change in pace when you move to Hawaii.

You might have to give up some living space

Hawaii is made up of six main islands and their resident population is around 1.4 million. On top of that, there are millions of tourists from all over the world who visit every year.

While all those people in a relatively small space make for a unique and exciting cultural mix, the reality is that lack of space means you’ll probably have to downsize your living space if you’re moving to Hawaii from the U.S. mainland.

Living on an island also means that may have to reduce your travel horizons a little too. If you feel like a change of scenery when the weekend or the school holidays roll around, instead of road tripping to another state the most realistic option is going to be… visiting another Hawaiian island! Again, this doesn’t sound like much of a chore, but a few months into your Hawaiian life you might start to crave a little something different. Keep in mind that there is plenty to explore in Hawaii and each island has its own characteristics.

Get ready to spend some $$$

Hawaii is an expensive place, even if you’re not living it up in a five-star resort, and you might find high prices in places you wouldn’t normally expect them. For example, milk can be surprisingly expensive, as well as fruit that isn’t grown on the islands (like grapes) can also cost a lot.

This is because food and many other products not produced on the islands are imported by sea or plane, driving the cost of living up to two-thirds higher than the rest of the U.S.

Hawaiian food

You’ll eat plenty of Hawaiian food

Hawaiian food can provide a few surprises for new inhabitants on the islands. First up, spam is very popular! In fact, Hawaiians consume more spam than any other U.S. state. You’ll find spam served with eggs, in fast food restaurants and even in sushi!

Due to the need to import foods not produced on the islands, staples like pizza or pasta can be harder to find in Hawaii than in mainland U.S. But in their place, you’ll find plenty of Hawaiian food and Asian food that uses tasty local ingredients like fresh fish 🍣 and tropical fruit 🥥. Delish! 😋

You’ll make a difference at work

Every teacher knows there’s no such thing as an “easy” school. Each classroom comes with its own set of challenges and rewards.

In Hawaii, the main challenge is that schools are underfunded compared to other U.S. states. On top of this, teacher turnover throughout Hawaii is high as many teachers only work there for a year or two before returning to their home state.

These factors, along with a general teacher shortage in the state, mean that teaching in Hawaii can be challenging. But you are also sure to make a difference in a place that truly needs you.

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You’ll learn a new classroom culture

Teaching in Hawaii also presents an opportunity to get to know a whole new culture through your students. Although you’ll still be in the working in the U.S., Hawaii has a strong cultural identity of its own brought about by its unique history, location, and diverse population.

As well as English, Hawaii has its own official language (Hawaiian) as well as Hawaiian Pidgin (or Hawaiian Creole English) which is a blend of expressions from many different cultures that have played a role in Hawaii’s history, namely Hawaiian, Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, and Portuguese among others.

Social culture is founded on the values of Aloha (acceptance) and ‘ohana (family). The island’s strong Asian influence also means that values such as duty, honor, and non-materialism are prized.

These cultural differences are not just something you’ll have to come to grips with in your free time––you’ll also come across them in the classroom. Formally, the Hawaiian Studies Program and the Hawaiian Language Immersion Program, both introduced in the 80s have aimed to integrate Hawaiian culture history and language into the state curriculum.

You’ll find your Hawaiian community

Whenever you move somewhere new, it always takes time to find your community and a set of people you can truly rely on.

In Hawaii, this feeling is somewhat amplified as it’s such a remote place with a distinctly different culture from the rest of the U.S. This means not only is it physically harder for you to go home or for your loved ones to visit you, but also there may be moments where you feel you stick out like a sore thumb (or a clueless tourist!) in your new home.

Making an effort with your local colleagues, getting involved in social groups and paying close attention to the Hawaiian way of doing things should all help you overcome this. Although it’s not always easy, finding friends and adapting to a new way of life will be an enriching experience that’s sure to stay with you for years to come.

And if you’re really lucky, whether you teach in Hawaii long term or just for a year or two, you’ll find your own version of the aloha spirit to take with you wherever you go.

Feeling inspired?

Check out current vacancies in Hawaii here.

Find out how to qualify for a Hawaiian teaching license here.

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