Photo above: David Sing (back row center), executive director of Nā Pua No‘eau, meets with statewide staff in Honolulu. (Left to right) Raymond Busniewski, IT specialist; Kinohi Gomes, director of operations; Toni Mallow, UH Hilo East Hawai‘i site coordinator; Ohua Morando, UH Maui College site coordinator; Tiffnie Kakalia, UH West Hawai‘i site coordinator; Nina Segawa, administrator officer; David Sing; Amanda Ishigo, former youth leadership coordinator; Greg Kashigi, O‘ahu site coordinator; Chad Cabral, research specialist; Malia Chun, Kaua‘i site coordinator; and Keone Chin, former STEM pathway coordinator.
David Sing is founding executive director of Nā Pua No‘eau Center for Gifted and Talented Native Hawaiian Children. His research, scholarly activity and community outreach primarily focus on creating optimal learning conditions for Native Hawaiians and other underserved populations.
David Sing is founding executive director of Nā Pua No‘eau Center for Gifted and Talented Native Hawaiian Children. Nā Pua No‘eau was established at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo in 1989 for the purpose of increasing educational enrichment opportunities for Hawaiian children in kindergarten through 12th grade. Under Sing’s leadership, outreach centers were later established on the islands of Maui, Kaua‘i, O‘ahu, Moloka‘i, Lana‘i and the west side of the island of Hawai‘i to expand activities throughout the state. Over the 23 years of programs, Nā Pua Noʻeau has provided educational enrichment to over 16,000 students from different communities throughout the state of Hawaiʻi.
A tenured member of the faculty at UH Hilo, Sing engages in research, scholarly activity and community outreach that focus on creating optimal learning conditions for Native Hawaiians and other underserved populations. He has designed an education model and directed programs at K-12 and in higher education that raise achievement and aspirations through a pedagogy that integrates native perspective, history, language, culture and values.
Sing’s designs of teaching and learning models have been replicated and used throughout Hawai‘i, the U.S. mainland, and internationally, raising achievement and aspirations of native Hawaiians while strengthening their connection to their culture and community.
“This may not seem like a lot but prior to the models I created, the education models demanded that students leave their culture in order to succeed in education and careers in Hawai‘i,” he says. “My contribution is to sustain the effort over many years in order to build an infrastructure that maintains itself over time.”
Sing says the most surprising find in his work is the need for “more people to understand the nature of how students learn and how to design education programs that have a learning theory foundation.” Addressing this need, Sing has mobilized native Hawaiian education caucus groups creating a venue for native Hawaiian educators to have a voice and be heard through grass roots venues.
“This work builds greater capacity of our local community people to be acknowledged for their understanding and expertise in areas that complement science and technology,” he says. “Culture is seen as a distinct and positive contribution and not as a separate idea.”
Sing recently formed the Ke Ola Mau Advisory Council composed of key faculty, staff and administrators to advise him and his staff with their new initiative to increase native Hawaiian health professionals. This will be achieved through programs conducted for students in grades kindergarten through professional schools . The council (photo below) is composed of partners from UH departments and schools that provide support or health care services to Nā Pua Noʻeau.
Looking to the future, Sing hopes to develop community projects that are sustained by each community “as a sense of pride, building opportunities to develop skills and knowledge along with having universal application,” he says.
- UPDATE: In Aug. 2014, David Sing announced his retirement from UH Hilo. See “David Sing, innovator and leader in shaping Hawaiian education, announces retirement from UH Hilo.”
Education and Accolades
In 2009, Sing received the Native Hawaiian Education Award recognizing him as the outstanding educator of the year contributing to the achievement and educational enrichment of Native Hawaiian children. He was awarded the 2008 National Indian Education Association Educator of the Year Award.
Sing received his bachelor of arts in Asian studies from UH Mānoa, and his master of arts in education and doctor of philosophy in education from Claremont Graduate University, California.
By Susan Enright, public information specialist, Office of the Chancellor.
Originally published March 18, 2013; latest update May 4, 2018.