Justin S. N. Mew
COE Alumnus and Kaiser High School Principal
“Children of all ages truly look to their teachers for academic, social, and emotional support. Be a hero. Be a teacher.”
BEd in Science Education
MEd in Secondary Education
MEd in Educational Administration
What positions have you held in the DOE/COE?
I was the inaugural Director of the COE Alumni Association for two terms (1989–1993). I have been with the HIDOE for 39 years and counting. Since 2014, I have been the Principal and Head of School at Henry J. Kaiser High School. My other roles include the following.
• Teacher, Kaimukī High School (1981-1989)
• OJT Vice Principal, ‘Aiea Intermediate (1988)
• Summer School Director, ‘Aiea Intermediate (1988)
• Vice Principal, Moanalua Intermediate (1989-1991)
• State Educational Specialist – Science Education, OCISS (1991-2003)
• Principal, ‘Āina Haina Elementary School (2003-2006)
• Principal/Head of School, Niu Valley Middle School (2006-2014)
How did you become interested in the field of education?
My mom is a retired DOE teacher. However, my career goal was to be a pediatrician. As an intermediate, high school, and college student, I volunteered at the Nu‘uanu YMCA Youth Department, teaching swimming and coaching flag football, basketball, and soccer. I was a summer counselor and the aquatics director. When I was not admitted into JABSOM, a COE Academic Advisor, Dr. Richard Sanford Alm told me of a high need for male teachers in science. While my experience was with elementary-aged students, Dr. Alm advised me to get into secondary school education. The rest is history.
What do you miss the most about your time with the COE?
Without exception, it was the genuine care that faculty had for us. We were always treated as professionals, as they modeled professionalism. It was so refreshing. In pre-med, the accepted environment was for the cream to rise to the top. Dropping out of pre-med was celebrated. Do what it takes to be the top dog to get into med school. At the COE, learning was celebrated.
What advice would you give to students considering enrollment in the COE?
Self-reflect. If you can respond affirmatively to more than one of these questions, then pursue your teaching credentials at the UHM College of Education.
• To what extent do you consider yourself a “people person?” Children (and colleagues) can sense when a person doesn’t care.
• To what extent do you gain personal satisfaction in helping a child learn a concept or do a skill, regardless of the challenges? Children can sniff out a teacher who gives up on them.
• To what extent are you passionate about your content area? Children can sense when a teacher is “going through the motions.”
• To what extent are you willing to figure out ways for all of your students to learn? Teaching is not an 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. M–F job.
• To what extent do you believe that public education is the backbone of our country that you want to contribute toward? Education is one way to keep our country strong.
Children of all ages truly look to their teachers for academic, social, and emotional support. Be a hero. Be a teacher.