BY RYAN SPELTS
Lōkahi is the Hawaiian word for unity. That is the focus of the new administration at Maria Montessori Academy in North Ogden. Micah Hirokawa was shocked when he found out that there was a free public charter school in Utah that followed the Maria Montessori philosophy. He said that these schools cost a fortune to attend anywhere else in the world, including Hawaii where he is from. Taking over the principal leadership role at Maria Montessori Academy has been somewhat easy, he says, because the proper building blocks were already in place. He has simply helped create more unity within the school by focusing on the school’s original mission.
According to Hirokawa, one of the key principles to unity is also found in another Hawaiian word: kuleana, which means responsibility. Hirokawa believes that people should be trusted, and the word kuleana refers to a reciprocal relationship between the person who is responsible and the thing which they are responsible for. Because of this trust, students and staff are given the freedom and responsibility to succeed and thrive. Hirokawa says he has never had a staff or group of students in his entire career who are more passionate and driven than the current community at Maria Montessori Academy.
One key innovation the school will see in the coming year is a roll out of a new way of doing junior high education. The junior high will be a multi-disciplinary, multi-sensory, passion-driven, student-driven program for six, seventh, and eighth grades with the ninth-grade transitionary year incorporating a capstone project that will prep students for high school and life. After studying top programs throughout the state and focusing on key Montessori principles, the excitement is palpable when you talk to Hirokawa regarding the new program.
When taking on the new job, Hirokawa made the effort to listen to those who were already there in order to coordinate a smooth transition. He also met with the school’s founding director who shared the founder’s vision. Hirokawa’s goal is to honor the founder’s vision by moving towards a sustainable legacy that will be around for 100 years or more.
The final Hawaiian phrase that Micah Hirokawa taught me is Kūlia I Ka Nu‘u, which means to strive to reach the summit. This is at the core of the principles Hirokawa employs in leading the school. It is also at the core of each program from early childhood, lower elementary, upper elementary, to the junior high. In seeking that summit, Maria Montessori Academy recognizes students and staff each month through the Striving for Excellence award. Through the principles and efforts made by both students and staff, Hirokawa believes Maria Montessori Academy will become one of the best schools in the state, and I believe him!