KS Communications Intern and USC English undergrad Chayla Nakamoto (center) credits her KS Kapālama fifth grade teacher Mara Bacon and high school English teacher Dr. Michael Puleloa with instilling in her a strong work ethic and an appreciation for indigenous literature.
A single lesson led by a passionate educator has the power to change a student’s life. In celebration of National Teacher Appreciation Day, the Kamehameha Schools news team asked a handful of KS alumni: “Who was your most inspirational kumu?”
Chayla Nakamoto – KS Communications intern / USC English undergraduate student, pays tribute to:
Mara Bacon – KS Kapālama ES kumu and
Dr. Michael Puleloa – KS Kapālama HS English kumu
“Mrs. Mara Chang (now Mara Bacon) was my fifth grade teacher and someone I will truly never forget. I still remember how in her eyes, we were not just 10-year-old kids, but equals who deserved the same respect as adults. Because of this belief, she set high expectations for us that really helped to push me to my full potential.
“Mrs. Chang also inspired a strong sense of personal responsibility in her students by emphasizing how our decisions impact our experiences, and I honestly do not think I would have the same strong work ethic if not for her.
“Another very important and influential teacher was my junior- and senior-year English teacher Dr. Michael Puleloa. I will always remember his generosity and how he took the time to ask me about my interests and then found opportunities to help me cultivate them. It was in his class where I learned that my passion for English could be cross-functional with my love for Hawaiian culture.
“Dr. Puleloa made sure we knew that indigenous literature is just as valid and important as the Western canon, which is a lesson I continually reference, especially while studying on the mainland. It is mainly because of Dr. Puleloa that I am confident in my identity as an academic and a Native Hawaiian.”
Nicole Barsamian – KS Maui MS art kumu, pays tribute to:
Leimamo Nitta – KS Maui MS choir kumu
“Even though it’s been over ten years since I stood in the risers as a student during one of the many hours of song practice for Founder’s Day, I can still remember the sweet, yet incredibly strong voice of Kumu Leimamo Nitta leading our class in song. Her melodic voice managed to carry over our own, even though we all felt like we were giving it our all. I guess that’s a testament to Kumu Nitta’s grace and strength.
“These are gifts that I deeply admire in Kumu Nitta today, more than ever, because I get to experience a taste of her world as the art teacher in the KS Maui Kula Waena (middle school). Kumu Nitta always had a way about her that made us awkward and uncomfortable teens shine. She has the gift to bring out otherwise unrealized talents of many of our haumāna. She is ever-patient developing their budding abilities, and I strive to do the same with my own haumāna.
“Every morning she stands out front greeting students and faculty alike with a sincere “Aloha, how are you?” The fact that she’s been a warm presence at our school these many years, and still manages to grace us all with her gifts of mele and pure aloha inspire me to share that same warmth with my haumāna every day.”
Laieikawai Suganuma – KS Hawai‘i Grade 9 English kumu, pays tribute to:
Laura Tavares – KS Hawai‘i HS AP literature kumu
“I was 13 years old when I first met English Kumu Mrs. Laura Tavares, and I was incredibly intimidated by her. She was the kind of teacher who demanded more from you and actually had the faith that you would be able to step up to the line.
“I know that it is a teacher’s job to believe in her students, to have faith in their abilities in order to help them have faith in themselves, but Laura was the first teacher who ever truly made me feel like I could go beyond “good enough” and accomplish greatness.
“She was my teacher in 9th grade, and for many teachers and students, the relationship between them ends at the end of the school year. I remember on the last day of 9th grade, she lined us up in order to say goodbye to each one of us individually. I was first in line, and she stuck out her hand confidently and waited for me to shake it. I looked at it, shook my head, and said out loud, “Screw that.” Instead, I pushed aside her outstretched hand and I hugged her. Even then, so early on in our relationship, she had made such a huge difference in my life.
“Laura Tavares has been, throughout my life, more than just a teacher. She has been a role model and an inspiration, and throughout all things she has believed in my potential and encouraged me to follow my dreams. She has taught me more than what I need to know in the classroom – though she certainly taught me that. She has also taught me to be the best person that I can be in my life.”
Read Suganuma’s full tribute to Tavares.
Kyle Dupont – KS Investment Analyst, pays tribute to:
Phil Aganus – former KSH social studies kumu / current KSH HS vice principal
“It is very difficult for me to pick a single inspirational teacher because all of my teachers have positively influenced me in some way. I am forever grateful to the teachers who have shaped my experience at Kamehameha, prepared me for college and life, and whose lessons extend well beyond the classroom. They make me proud to be a part of Kamehameha Schools.
“My first teacher at Kamehameha was Social Studies Kumu Mr. Phil Aganus, who left a lasting impression on me as to what makes Kamehameha Schools such a special place. One of the first assignments in his class was to bring in a photo of our kūpuna to serve as a reminder of where we came from and the sacrifices that allowed us to be there.
“His projects were lined with thoughtful lessons in cultural identity which was something I never experienced outside of Kamehameha. Mr. Aganus exemplifies the Aloha Spirit, he is a proud cultural practitioner, and you can always count on him for a good laugh. He inspired me to make the most of my time at Kamehameha Schools by learning and practicing the Hawaiian culture, and for that, I am very thankful to have had him as a teacher.”
STRATEGIC PLAN 2020
SP2020 is a five-year strategic plan that will guide Kamehameha Schools from 2015 to 2020. The plan marks a starting point toward KS’ Vision 2040, which envisions success for all Native Hawaiian learners.
That success includes KS alumni leaders who contribute to their communities, both locally and globally. KS teachers play a valuable role in this endeavor by instilling students with the confidence and resiliency they need to thrive in an ever-changing world.