Lynette Suliana Sikahema Finau, Ph.D. is a 2021 graduate of the PHD Program in Leadership and Change at Antioch University.

Lynette Finau at her Dissertation Defense.

From L-R: Dr. Kamuela Ka'Ahanui, Committee Member, Dr. Lize Booysen, Committee Chair, Dr. Elizabeth Holloway, Committee Member.

Dissertation Committee

  • Lize Booysen, DBL, Committee Chair
  • Elizabeth Holloway, Ph.D., Committee Member
  • Kamuela Ka'Ahanui, Ed.D., Committee Member


teacher identity, bridging identity, students of color, minority teachers of color, racism in education, achievement gap, vision gap, Pacific Islanders, role models, first-order narratives

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Research and scholarship in multicultural education has consistently affirmed that as a result of the long standing racial academic achievement gap and the current teaching force not reflecting the changing demographics of students in the United States, students of color continue to be deprived from having teachers who look like them and who may bring similar life, social, and cultural experiences that can increase the value they place on academics. The purpose of this study was to explore the lived experiences of teachers of color and how they perceive their identity as significant and meaningful to their profession and its influential impact on the academic success of students of color. It is the role-model premise that students can benefit from seeing teachers with similar racial/ethnic background in a position of authority in school. This research was grounded on the depth that qualitative inquiry brings to the field of education and was critical to the ongoing thematic interpretation of teachers of colors’ often preconceived views of identity. Findings were extracted from 14 teachers of color participants who were engaged in a reflective process that revealed emerging themes from their individual and common perceptions and experiences. This study affirms that teachers of color are vital in the education system and as anticipated, their reflective narratives each produced a landscape of stories that brought meaning into their different backgrounds, personal stories, challenges, belief system, and career that surfaced their initial motivation for entering the teaching profession. This study is also embedded within a framework that draws particularly from two theoretical lenses; identity theory and identity construction theory. Employing identity studies to teachers is an extension of ways in which theoretical views intersects with teachers’ lives, experiences and perceptions of their role and educational practices. This dissertation is available in open access at AURA ( and OhioLINK ETD Center (


Lynette Finau

ORCID Scholar ID #: #0000-0002-8026-9899

Dr. Lynette Suliana Sikahema Finau earned her PhD in Leadership and Change from Antioch University, in Yellow Springs, OH. She holds MA’s in Secondary Education/English and Leadership & Change, a BA in Interdisciplinary Studies with an emphasis on Culture, Literature & the Arts from the University of Washington. Recognizing the expansion of globalism and ethnic diversity of students in the classroom today, yet the persistent discrepancies in the racial-ethnic composition of the students and the teaching force not keeping up with the changes, Dr. Finau conducted a qualitative research on teachers of color’s racial-ethnic identity, as a tool, can contribute to the success of the students they reflect. She firmly believes that students need to see and have teachers who reflect back their language, their culture, their ethnicity, religion, and their experiences in the classroom. Appointed by Governor Jay Inslee, Dr. Finau became the first Tongan-Pacific Islander to serve as a Commissioner for Washington State’s Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs (CAPAA) chairing the Education Committee for two terms examining and defining issues pertaining to the rights and needs of Asian Pacific Islanders (AAPI’s) and made recommendations to the Governor, state, local leaders and agencies with respect to desirable changes in programs and laws for underserved AAPI communities and students. Happily married to her husband Paul, they have 3 children, Jarett, Jade and PaulaVuna.