MEd CS (MSLMED) Student
"If we can help our students love to learn, then we can expect that they will be free from the bounds that [can] limit life choices..."
North Shore of Oahu (Lā‘ie/Hauʻula area)
- MEd, Curriculum Studies: Middle & Secondary School Level
I am the principal of Taʻiala Academy, a small private school in Mapusaga Fou. This is my second year as the principal and my third year as a teacher at Taʻiala. I am teaching first through eighth grade math and fourth through eighth grade social studies.
What is your philosophy of teaching?
The name of our school can be broken down in two parts: taʻi=to lead, and ala=the path. Our school motto is, “Learning today, Leading tomorrow.” We believe that we are helping our students to become the leaders of the future by encouraging a love for learning that will lead to academic independence. Shortly after I became the principal, my ecclesiastical leader counseled me to ponder on our school name and ask myself, “What is this path that we are talking about? Where does it lead?” I have been thinking about his questions for almost two years now, and I am getting closer and closer to the answer. Right now, my answer is “freedom.” If we can help our students love to learn and show them how to become independent learners, then we can expect that they will be free from the bounds that normally limit the life choices of the lower socioeconomic and/or rural students. I keep this idea of freedom in mind as I teach. It is a constant struggle to find the balance between the students’ desire for hand-holding and my expectations of independence. But, it is worth the struggle when I see my students work through difficult math problems either independently or by discussing it with their classmates. Each time that happens, another path is opened from which they are free to choose their future.
How do you relate to your students?
In the Sāmoan culture, relationships are important and are regulated by distance or what may be called a va. For example, the distance between parent and child is different from the distance between friends. I feel that it is important for me to maintain the va between teacher and student because it teaches children the skill of developing meaningful relationships while respecting the social distance between non-peers. I make it a point to establish early on that I am not their friend; I am their teacher/principal. And then, I spend most of my time making sure that they know that I am concerned about them, care about them, and love them. I do this by talking to them outside of the classroom, showing interest in their non-school lives, and demonstrating through my actions that they, as whole individuals, are important to me.
Describe your road to becoming an educator.
I had no intentions of ever becoming an educator. Yet, here I am. For me, teaching is my calling. At the age of 33, I decided to go back to school. As I was standing in line to register at American Sāmoa Community College I started thinking, again, about my major. I wanted to do something meaningful with my education, but I was certain that I did not want to teach. Suddenly, it was like I heard a voice whispering to me that I should be a teacher in American Sāmoa. I trusted that voice, and that trust led me on an amazing journey that has landed me here as the principal of a small private school dedicated to providing an affordable quality education in a wholesome environment. I could not be happier!
How has the COE helped you on your road to becoming an educator?
I decided to join the MSLMED program because I wanted to learn these skills and I needed to immerse myself in the study of education. The MSLMED program has helped me immensely by making me aware of the developmental needs of my students, helping me to learn and understand the jargon of education, encouraging me to improve my school and my classrooms by doing action research, and introducing me to available technology and helping me to realize just how important technology is for today’s students. I still have a lot to learn, but I am definitely more confident in my abilities as a teacher and as an administrator because of the cohort program. I am so grateful to my friend and colleague, Melinda Temple, for encouraging me to apply to the program. And, I want to send a big faafetai to Dr. Deering and the other MSLMED instructors who have been amazing. Thank you!
Learn more about the MEd program offerings in Curriculum Studies, including Teri’s program (the Middle Level emphasis) on the Curriculum Studies MEd website.