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VerlieAnn Leimomi Kapule Malina-Wright - Leo Reano Memorial Award

Cultural Educator to Receive NEA Human and Civil Rights Award

WASHINGTON - July 02, 2008 -

VerlieAnn Leimomi Kapule Malina-Wright, Ed.D., teacher, principal, cultural advocate and activist, will receive the National Education Association's Leo Reano Memorial Award for her commitment to native language immersion programs and cultural education as part of the Association's 42nd annual Human and Civil Rights Awards Dinner in Washington, D.C., on July 2, 2008.

"Ensuring that the native language, cultures and traditions of Hawaii are not lost is Dr. Malina-Wright's passion and purpose," said NEA President Reg Weaver. "She has brought about a sea of change in the educational system of Hawaii. Thanks to her efforts, centuries-old traditions have been preserved."

Malina-Wright has spent four decades advocating for and enabling the teaching of their ancestral languages to indigenous students. Believing that native cultural values and crafts can best be preserved through the teaching of native languages, she has worked tirelessly for education in the native Hawaiian language and has carried her mission for native language education to tribal councils throughout the United States.

Dr. Malina-Wright holds degrees in both business and education from the University of Hawaii at Mãnoa, and received her Ed.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles College of Education. Among the successful examples of native-language-based education has been the establishment and expansion in Hawaii of native language immersion schools for preK-12. 

Not only has she advised communities and the state legislature on maintaining and expanding these schools, but she has also taught in them and used their example to advise other indigenous groups on the preservation of language and culture.  Since 2000, she has been vice principal of Ke Kula Kaiapuni 'O Anuenue, a K-12 Hawaiian Language Immersion school, and has taught grades 6-12 in several summer programs in Honolulu.

"VerlieAnn has testified before state legislatures and the U.S. Congress on behalf of the educational needs of indigenous people and the vital importance of preserving cultures and cultural values," Weaver said.  "We honor her for her leadership and her actions."

The NEA Leo Reano Memorial Award honors Leo Reano, a teacher, artist and interpreter. He was a member of the Santo Domingo Indian Pueblo and served on the All Indian Pueblo Council and the NEA Council on Human Relations.  Reano dedicated his life to securing educational opportunities for American Indian/Alaska Native children.


The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing 3.2 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

Contact: Samantha Kappalman  (202) 822-7823