About This Project

Special Education (SPED) teacher recruitment and retention in Hawaiʻi has been an on-going challenge. “Every Student Deserves Someone Special” is a collaborative project, spearheaded by The University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa’s Department of Special Education and the Hawai‘i Department of Education. The goal of the project is to increase the number of high-quality individuals in pursuing a SPED teaching degree or certificate through the University of Hawai‘i System, while also helping to destigmatize special education and foster support for individuals with disabilities.

Interested in becoming a teacher? Meet with our Special Education Recruitment Specialist to learn more and get support: bit.ly/spedinfo

Project Phases

Phase I:


Research and interviews with past and present SPED teachers, as well as current SPED Teacher Candidates were conducted to develop a messaging strategy.


Key Characteristics


Key Positioning

“Best of the Best”


Key Messages


Phase II:

Branding and Messaging

The following statement serves as the basis for the branding and messaging strategy:


It Takes Someone Special

It’s not an easy job, but it may be the most rewarding job in the world. It’s a profession where heartfelt connections are made, small successes can change lives, and no two days are ever the same. As a Special Education Teacher, your patience, compassion and creativity turn everyday learning into powerful moments of joy, independence and self-confidence. Every child needs a champion — someone who believes in them, treats them as equal and helps them accomplish what others think is impossible. It’s a profession that takes a special someone.

Phase III:

Content Creation

To reach our target market, the following marketing materials have been created:


Radio Commercials



Signage and Collateral


Get Involved!

Join Our Community!

The SPEDucator Project is a collective of special education teachers who were selected and recommended by their admin, colleagues, and student's parents. The aim of this collective was to help change the narrative of special education by becoming the face and voice of this Someone Special for Students campaign.

Now, the SPEDucator Project is looking to expand this community and has merged with the Hawaii Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) unit. This growing community supports everyone interested in supporting individuals with disabilities and this profession. We invite educators, parents, admin, teacher candidates, EAs, and fellow community members to connect with us as we work to support recruitment and retention of special education teachers and improve outcomes for all students with disabilities in Hawai‘i!

Have an amazing story to share about a SPED teacher and/or student? Want to give a shout out to someone special? Follow us on social media and use the hashtag:


Project Team

Janet Kim
Team Leader


Janet Kim is the Special Education Recruitment Specialist in the College of Education at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. Her research focus is recruiting and supporting underrepresented populations into teacher education programs, including distance and online recruitment methods and programs to meet the unique needs of rural and remote populations across the state of Hawai‘i. Leveraging her own experiences as an elementary special education teacher for the Hawai‘i Department of Education and now holding the first full-time recruitment position in the College of Education, Mrs. Kim advises students using a blend of first-hand experiences as a special education teacher and professional development in the field of advising and recruitment. She received her Master of Education in Leadership and Diversity and her PhD in Education with a specialization in Exceptionalities at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa.


Kai Media & Marketing is a full-service advertising agency that was established in 2007. Our team members have worked with and for advertising and design firms here and abroad, large and small, established and “start up.” We were all born and raised in the islands and are proud graduates of Hawaii’s public school system and the University of Hawai‘i System. Over the past 10 years, we have worked on various University of Hawai‘i marketing and communication campaigns including: 15 to Finish, 55 by ’25, Be a Hero Be a Teacher, Find Your Own Path to Success, and College is Within Reach. We are honored to have been the agency selected to develop this campaign, “Every Student Deserves Someone Special.”

UH SPED Special Education