HONOLULU(KHON2) — More than 170,000 island keiki will be back in classrooms across the state on Monday. Nicole Kiliona, a grade 10 counselor at Waianae High School said she and many of her coworkers can’t wait.

“There’s a new buzz on campus, you can feel it,” Kiliona explained. “Everyone’s super excited. We’re pumped for the new school year.”

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August Ahrens Elementary School 3rd grade teacher, Katelyn Huber said she’s looking forward to the new year because things will be back to normal.

“I’m excited to kind of be done with the whole social distancing, COVID guidelines regulations,” Huber said.

For the first time in two years, masks are optional on school campuses and social distancing in classrooms is no longer required.

“This year, we’ll be able to go back to field trips and do different fun activities like that,” she explained. “Even just preparing our classrooms, we can group (students) in groups together.”

“It definitely feels different,” Kiliona said. “We’re just excited to see (students’) faces. I’m excited because I’m a school counselor. I’m more get the touchy-feely vibe of a person sitting in my office and not doing a counseling session on Zoom.”

On Monday, the teachers union said around 9,000 veteran teachers would get raises between $7,000 to $26,000. It’s something many said they are looking forward to this year.

“This is my 11th year as a school counselor,” Kiliona explained. “I know what we’re worth…So I’m super excited about it. I’m sure everybody is kind of a-buzz. The new teachers don’t know what we’re talking about, because it doesn’t affect them. But the OG’s on campus, yeah, we should be getting this, we’re like, ‘Finally.'”

Huber, who’s only in her second year of teaching, and doesn’t qualify for a raise yet, said it is motivating.

“Honestly, I think my best bet is just to go back and get my masters to kind of bump-me-up quicker,” Huber said.

“But I think I’m more excited to see it in the people that have been here longer.”

According to Kiliona, the extra income is nice but that’s not what it is about.

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“It will never change my passion,” explained Kiliona. “The money–it can’t be all about the money. We wouldn’t be here if it was the money.”