Big Island Principal Earns Prestigious Leadership Award

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Darlene Javar. Photo credit: Island Insurance Foundation.

Darlene Javar, the principal of Na‘alehu Elementary School on the Island of Hawai‘i, received the Island Insurance Foundation’s 13th annual Masayuki Tokioka Excellence in School Leadership Award last night at the annual Public Schools of Hawaii Foundation banquet at the Sheraton Waikiki Hotel.

The $25,000 award, named in honor of the late Masayuki Tokioka, founder of Island Insurance Company Ltd., is presented annually by the Island Insurance Foundation to a public school principal who is visionary, community-minded and has an entrepreneurial spirit—qualities of leadership that Tokioka exemplified in his own company and in the business community.

“Principal Javar exemplifies the type of leadership that can transform our public schools into model learning institutions,” said Tyler Tokioka, president of the Island Insurance Foundation. “By recognizing outstanding principals such as Darlene, it is our hope that her accomplishments will inspire others in public education.”


Javar received $15,000 for a school project of her choice and an additional $10,000 cash award.

Javar has been an educator at Na‘alehu Elementary for seven years, including six as principal. She believes effective teachers are the most effective factor in a student’s growth and must, therefore, have the necessary resources and preparation to do their jobs, whether they are a returning or new teacher. As a result, Javar established a New Teacher Academy for incoming teachers. The NTA ensures that teachers are given a head start and an initial level of understanding, as well as an additional level of financial support before the start of the school year. This differentiated professional development not only meets the needs of first-year teachers, but also the many skill levels in various areas of education.

She will use the award money to expanding the school’s He Keiki Aloha Na Mea Kanu garden project. Built in 1928, the school is located in the southern-most community on the island of Hawai‘i. Sixty-three miles from Hilo on the east and the same distance from Kona on the west, students’ homes are located anywhere from small, rural communities in Na‘alehu Town to Hawaiian Ocean View Estates. This cultural diversity is also intertwined with a large percentage of students who face the challenges of poverty, geographic isolation and limited resources.


Many Na‘alehu students do not live in areas with productive soil and a consistent supply of water. This project teaches students the gardening practices that are applicable to the area’s rugged and diverse landscape and align with HMSA’s Blue Zone Project, which promotes smart choices and healthy living. This project consists of four major components: Honu Hatchling: Seedlings; Campus Beautification & Outdoor Learning Spaces; Garden Renovation & Hydroponic Exploration; and Science and Health Standards-Based Connections.

“The beauty of school gardens is that students engage in hands-on scientific research and observations, plot garden beds or estimate their harvest using math skills, learn about the health benefits of vitamin A while eating carrots they grew themselves,” said Alison Yahna, Parent Community Network coordinator at Na‘alehu Elementary School. “Academic scores improve because education becomes exciting, relevant and applied. Students get to solve real-world problems and invent real-world solutions to the challenges our community faces as they interact with local farmers and entrepreneurs.”

Fourteen candidates were nominated for the award. They each received $1,000 and a commemorative plaque, which was presented to them at a recognition ceremony on April 1.


The Island Insurance Foundation also presented a $2,000 cash award to the top two semi-finalists, Principal Linell Dilwith of Stevenson Middle School in Honolulu and Principal Elynne Chung of Mililani Middle School.

The other 11 nominees were:

  • Brendan Burns, Aina Haina Elementary School, O‘ahu
  • Mark Elliott, King Kekaulike High School, Maui
  • Daniel Hamada, Kapaa High School, Kaua‘i
  • Debra Hatada, Kaimiloa Elementary School, O‘ahu
  • Lisa Higa, Nanakuli Elementary School, O‘ahu
  • Marcy Kagami, Nimitz Elementary School, O‘ahu
  • Kelcy Koga, Waiakea High School, Big Island
  • Gay Kong, Keolu Elementary School, O‘ahu
  • Derek Minakami, Kaneohe Elementary School, O‘ahu
  • Shawn Suzuki, Konawaena High School, Big Island
  • Troy Takazono, Waiau Elementary School, O‘ahu

For more information about the Island Insurance Foundation, go online.

About Masayuki Tokioka
An immigrant from Japan, Masayuki Tokioka moved to Hawaii at age 12 and graduated from McKinley High School in 1921. He earned a bachelor of arts at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa and a master of business administration in international commerce from Harvard University in 1927. His business career spanned 70 years, during which time he founded several successful enterprises including the Island Insurance Companies, International Savings & Loan Association Ltd. and National Mortgage & Finance Company Ltd. He was also a driving force in establishing many community-focused entities including the Hawaii Immigrant Preservation Center, Crown Prince Akihito Scholarship Foundation and the Japanese Cultural Centers in Hawaii and San Francisco.

Hawai‘i Island Principals Nominated for Leadership Award

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