Updated: December 6, 2023
Malia Johnson, EdD, South Maui Learning ʻOhana board chair and one founder of the Kīhei Charter School, recently celebrated her 90th birthday. She has been a member of the South Maui Learning ʻOhana for the past 24 years.
Johnson is the daughter of two mathematicians who thought she would follow in their footsteps. Instead, Johnson discovered nursing and went on to teach in Texas and Hawaiʻi.
She earned her master’s in Education at the University of Texas and subsequently a Doctorate in Education Foundations from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa in 1987, with minors in medical anthropology and public health.
Johnson joined the South Maui Learning ʻOhana board in 1999, shortly after the organization became incorporated. The group had been meeting as an unincorporated nonprofit from late 1996.
A believer in education with smaller classes, more educational flexibility and an educational philosophy that saw value in students learning by being involved in the community, Johnson moved up to become chair of South Maui Learning ʻOhana in 2011.
Gene Zarro, CEO of South Maui Learning ʻOhana said, “Johnson has played a critical role in the organization’s mission to create a school based on the concept of experiential education- a school that views the entire community as a classroom, fostering student learning through hands-on projects and a ‘classroom without walls’ educational philosophy.”
Kīhei Charter School opened for students in July 2001, with 60 students in grades 10-12, at the Kīhei Youth Center. Today, the school has its own educational facility in Kīhei with 700 students in grades K-12.
Johnson recently began writing an autobiography.