Always ready to help, Colin Morikawa is a familiar face from Niu Valley Middle School now working as one of the two behavioral health specialists for our Kaiser community. Morikawa is dedicated to ensuring good mental health and helpful behavioral counseling for all grade levels. He strives to provide the right tools for everyday life for students so he can help them make the right choices for their future.
Morikawa enjoys getting to know the students around him; it enables him to assist with not only their career choices but also decisions they make in their everyday lives. He strongly believes that helping students emotionally will help them shape their future. “I want to help students to be good and to have the fundamental tools in society, especially in classrooms,” Morikawa said.
Morikawa tries to reinforce and empower students so they stay true to their values and beliefs, especially when they are feeling stressed or overwhelmed. “This job was my primary interest because when I was a kid, there were not a lot of resources available, so it’s good to help other students out today,” he said.
Contributed by Mia Kessler
It seems as if Steven Penhollow was destined to become a teacher. “I was always a student to ask: ‘Why?’ You know, why do we have to learn this… [I] would push against teachers to ask those types of things,” said Penhollow, who is going on his 18th year of teaching. He now teaches freshman English and sophomore U.S History in room C105.
Penhollow has always been a skeptical thinker, a quality that drives his passion for history. He continually questions the validity of traditional Western storytelling and how language is used to influence the masses. “I’m interested in the issues of power and language… who gets to tell the story and how accurate is that story… and how language is used to empower or to manipulate people,” he said. Penhollow gravitates towards contrary narratives that are not typical discussions in classrooms, like the stories of indigenous communities.
In his classes, Penhollow exercises a teaching technique, formally known as critical pedagogy, which challenges students to cross-examine dominating views. “The teacher is not the one who has all the information and just gives it to the students [as if they’re] sponges,” he said. “I believe in a Socratic method of having kids ask their questions, and to be critical about the things they read and see—in a way that they don’t just accept the answers that are given to them.”
Contributed by Sierra Okazaki
What gives you goosebumps? Is it the cold? A scary movie? Smile Garcia, the new dance teacher at Kaiser High School, gets hers from dance, and will for the rest of her life. From joining the drill team at Hollywood High School in L.A. to performing in modern dance groups, Garcia has dedicated her life to dance, and now, to teaching it to her students.
As soon as she graduated from Hollywood High School, Garcia started teaching dance and later co-founded a dance group. “We wanted to continue to dance after high school,” she said, “so we decided to start a dance program for kids who couldn’t afford dance classes—[those] who didn’t have the privilege to take a dance class.” That program has grown into a non-profit organization, Dance Engagements, which now instructs dancers of all ages and backgrounds.
While teaching, Garcia did some learning herself, focusing on cultural dances in college. In fact, her favorite dance is Lamba, a West African dance of spiritual appreciation. Garcia herself is quite spiritual: “I feel like the island called me here,” she said. “There’s been this great peaceful energy, and I couldn’t ask for anything else.”
Ever since she arrived at Kaiser, Garcia has been giving back. After organizing the faculty dance during homecoming assembly, Garcia started recruiting for a Kaiser drill team, similar to the one she danced in. To Garcia, teaching dance is her duty and passion. She said, “My purpose [is] here… and now I’m smiling with the whole world.”
Contributed by Ingus Stegis
Trevor Teraoka, the new college and career counselor at Kaiser, has deep roots with the local community. Born and raised in Honolulu, Teraoka attended Aina Haina Elementary, Niu Valley Middle, and Kalani High. He attended the University of Portland and pursued an elementary education degree. However, after working for a year in a preschool for autistic children, Teraoka became more interested in the psychology and development of students. “That interest led me to further my education, and I decided to pursue a counseling degree [instead],” Teraoka said.
Once Teraoka returned to Hawaii, he volunteered at the Career Counseling Center at Kalani. “There was no availability in the counseling field at the time, and so to experience what counseling was like in a high school setting, I volunteered to work there,” said Teraoka. When a counseling position at Kalani finally opened, Teraoka immediately applied and was hired.
Teraoka comes to Kaiser with both knowledge and experience, and is eager to help students at Kaiser with whatever goals they may have. “My philosophy has always been to help every student with their [personal goals], whether it be a four year university or getting into a vocational education program,” Teraoka said. Due to his experience as an outreach counselor, he finds himself drawn to students who face social and personal challenges. “I always have a [soft] spot for students who struggle in a traditional school environment. I want to see them move forward so they can become a better version of themselves,” he said.
Contributed by Kayla Lum
Introvert and teacher are two words not commonly associated with one another, as many believe teaching requires a more outgoing personality. However, Nicole Jones, the new special education teacher at Kaiser, largely defies this belief. Despite her reserved nature, she’s taken well to her role, encouraging a classroom adapted to developing her students.
Jones’ dedication to playing an active role in student learning is supplemented by her joy in her students’ growth. “Arriving each morning, seeing [the] class, and looking forward to a new day [make all the difference in my mood],” said Jones. The gratification she receives from teaching and the bond she shares with her students fuel her passion for education when it comes to the classroom.
While Jones’ passion set her on her journey, pure enjoyment is what keeps her there. Her attitude toward education reflects clearly in her professional mindset. Not attempting to overcome her introverted tendencies, but rather taking them in stride, helps Jones cultivate stronger student-teacher relationships where both parties belong to a safe space.
Contributed by Kaylie Yoshinaga
Jamie Moody, who majored in political science and has a degree in political science, is Kaiser’s new behavioral health specialist. As an undergraduate, Moody attended Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. After receiving her Bachelor’s degree, she went on to study at Chaminade University in Honolulu for a Master’s in psychology. Shortly after, she worked at Kalani High before coming to Kaiser.
In her free time, Moody enjoys hiking and keeping up with the news. “I try to understand current events and what’s happening globally and nationally, or how we’re changing as a society,” she said.
As a behavioral health specialist, Moody feels it is important to know how to support Kaiser’s students. “I think understanding how to help students access education and how to help them through some of the behavioral challenges [which] can sometimes be a barrier to doing well in school is the key,” said Moody.
Moody was inspired to pursue a career in education by her fifth-grade teacher Mrs. Hisinger. “I had a difficult time [with reading], and she taught me how to break things down to learn by sounding words out one at a time, and to know the important thing is… to keep moving forward.” Moody hopes to emulate Hisinger’s helpful nature in her career as well.
Contributed by Claire Williams
Everyone needs someone to talk to now and then, and Kaiser’s new outreach counselor Lauren Kitagawa is always there in those times.
“[I want] to build better relationships with my students, and help my seniors be successful,” she said. “My biggest weakness is that I care a lot,” Kitagawa said. “In my position, I get to learn a lot about what students struggle with.” Sometimes, she said, it’s difficult to not let the emotional toll overwhelm her—but it’s worth the challenge.
Despite her passion for the subject, Kitagawa wasn’t always set on becoming a counselor. “So, [originally] I went into exercise science, interior design, and then studied psychology and got my masters in counseling psychology,” she said. “I started to work with students when I was in college, and I realized that I really enjoyed that.” Counseling was a way for her to build relationships and help students through hard times.
Although people all come from different areas, homes, and schools, Kitagawa believes that they all face similar challenges. In her line of work, she deals with all kinds of problems, from attendance at school to family struggles at home. Kitagawa hopes to do whatever she can to help her students face the many adversities that come with growing up.
Contributed by Sean Christopher and Kyle Heim
Stacy Takeshita, a Kaiser graduate with a passion for teaching since she was young, is the new Japanese language teacher on campus. Having taught some of her current students before at Niu Valley, she is excited to see them grow and progress this year.
When Takeshita graduated from high school, she was already interested in teaching but decided to explore other majors first. In college, she first studied Business, then changed to Animal Science, then switched into Computer Science, while studying Japanese the whole time. Since she was still passionate about teaching, she worked as a teaching assistant in computer science classes and later combined her passion for teaching and Japanese. “[Japanese] was the only major that stuck with me through all my changes,” said Takeshita.
In her free time, Takeshita enjoys watching Chinese and Korean dramas, which fuels her interest in foreign languages even further. As a result, she studied Okinawan, Egyptian Hieroglyphics, American Sign Language, and Korean in college as well. “I actually love learning languages. It’s one of the things I can pick up,” said Takeshita.
As a Kaiser Alumni, Takeshita has been very excited to see all the changes on campus, such as the new benches and the Peace and Sustainability Garden. She hopes to give back to our community through teaching at Kaiser.
Contributed by Charlotte Tang
Christian Cahill, Kaiser’s new biology and Advanced Placement Environmental Science teacher, has always had an “earth-shaking” interest in the environment. When she was younger, Cahill had dreamt of becoming a forest ranger, an interest fueled by her passion for teaching. She developed this passion through engaging with the environment and the students of the Hawaii Nature Center.
However, she isn’t just a science teacher. Those not involved with the Kaiser drill team may not be aware of her hobby: dance. Cahill’s motivation to dance led her to travel to West Africa, where she studied the native culture and learned different dancing styles. “You learn so much about traveling [from] the way people talk and culturally live,” she said.
After returning home from West Africa, Cahill was inspired to bring back what she learned from West Africa to O’ahu. She occasionally led African-style dance classes at the University of Manoa’s music department and currently coaches the Kaiser Drill team. “Dance makes me feel free,” she said.
Cahill has already made strong connections with her students. “She encourages us to speak and interact,” said Ally Reynolds (11). “The more we know about the world,” she said, “[the] more mindful [we can be].”
Contributed by Kera Nishimura
From participating in bike challenges in Mongolia to teaching in Japan, Micah Mizumoto has had quite the riveting life. Mizumoto was born and raised in Hawaii and is a proud alumnus of Kamehameha, and now teaches English to sophomores and ELL classes to foreign students.
After graduating from the University of Hawaii at Manoa with a degree in education in 2014, he was accepted into the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) program, where he taught English in Japan for four years. Being immersed in Japanese culture has given him valuable life lessons. “Being a part of Japanese society makes you a lot more professional and respectful because that’s important to them,” Mizumoto said, “[Participating in the JET program] helped me realize that there’s happiness outside of your profession and money.”
In the past, Mizumoto wasn’t a model student, which might be surprising based on his current career in education. “I wasn’t a good student in high school, and I was a terrible student in middle school… I had detention hours to [show] for that,” he said. Thus, his goal as a teacher is to help his students in whatever way he can, especially those who face the same struggles he did in his schooling. “I hope to help every student become a better person, a better contributor to society, and the best version of [themselves] that they can be,” said Mizumoto.
Contributed by Ailee Knauff
Todd Shishido, our new educational assistant in the special education department, is giving all his heart and attention to the students with special needs. With a greater focus on the students, Shishido’s job requires more individualized attention, specific educational goals, and specialized learning strategies for each student.
Shishido, born and raised in Hawaii, originally studied American Sign Language (ASL) to become a sign language interpreter. However, since no professional degree was available for sign language at that time, he realized that without a degree, he could not make sign language interpretation his career. Still, with his knowledge of sign language, Shishido was able to use his skills in volunteer work with organizations such as the American Sign Language of Music. Through his volunteer experiences, he realized that he could use his sign language skills to educate students with special needs.
Within the special education department, Shishido’s primary role is helping students with hearing impairments. His expertise in ASL levels the playing field for students with hearing impairments, contributing to their general success.
Contributed by Hana Suh
“My main purpose as a teacher is to build relationships with students and to be a part of their success,” said Joseph Hajiro, the new Personal Transition Plan (PTP) teacher. Hajiro is a Kaiser alumnus, graduating from the class of ‘83. Born and raised in Hawaii Kai, Hajiro is grateful for the opportunity to teach at Kaiser. “This is the school that I want to finish my teaching [career] at,” he said. “I want to give back to the Hawaii Kai community.” He has always appreciated the support from his community—in fact, one of Hajiro’s former teachers at Kaiser helped him in finding his first teaching job.
Before becoming a member of Kaiser’s staff, Hajiro taught at three other schools on O’ahu. Despite teaching many subjects, he says that PTP has been his favorite because he is able to help students work towards their education beyond high school.
Outside of school, Hajiro practices jiu-jitsu, watches mixed martial arts (MMA), and is a regular participant of the school’s Judo Club. Since he advises students in his PTP class to join at least one club/sport to be well-rounded, he decided to do the same as well. Hajiro also enjoys traveling. “Every year I go traveling somewhere over the summer. I like to learn [about] new cultures and languages,” he said. “I… know Japanese, and I’m studying Malay.” Hajiro has already begun engaging and giving back as a member of our school community.
Contributed by Natalie Clay
To Yona Silverman, the beauty of art crosses genres, artists, and centuries. From Takashi Murakami’s Superflat murals to Albrecht Durer’s Renaissance paintings, an immense array of works are uniquely significant to her. It’s Silverman’s first year at Kaiser, and she is eager to share that appreciation with her drawing and painting, design, and fiber arts classes.
Students can expect to be inspired and engaged in Silverman’s classes, which utilize a teaching style she describes as “an open collaborative philosophy. It’s very constructivist too, so I give a lot of examples [and] encouragement.” Abiding with constructivist learning theory, and firmly believing in the greater significance of art, she strongly encourages the students to reflect on their completed works. “I allow students to evaluate themselves because I think that’s what artists do,” Silverman said. “As a writer or a musician or an athlete, you always look back and go, ‘What did I do? How could I do it better?’”
In her new teaching position, Silverman hopes that she can increase her students’ interests in the arts, as well as reduce the stigma surrounding the subject for any student who hopes to pursue art. “Sometimes, people think art is just making stuff, like [crafts]… but there are also some deep philosophies behind it that are translated through the fine arts,” she said. With a new audience of high school students, Silverman is eager to teach more complex concepts and facilitate a deeper understanding of art within her classes.
Contributed by Tara Morisato