Every year for the past four years, Charter School Capital has held the Dewey Awards essay contest. This contest highlights the wonderful impact charter school educators have on their students. Selecting the three.winners is a challenge – all of these stories are inspiring. While our panel has chosen the three winning entries for 2020, we felt this entry needed to be shared.

Here’s a story by Jaci Chuaunsu, student at Kihei Charter.
Jaci writes about Mr. Jake Hamman, engineering teacher and Jaci’s advisor.

How my teacher has impacted my life – by Jaci Chuansu

I was still new to the island of Maui when I first enrolled in Kihei Charter. It was the first time I went to an American school, and I had no idea what to expect. I kept to myself for the most part, but what I didn’t expect was how nice and friendly people were, even if I was just “the quiet kid.”

People in Maui were very open, welcoming, and nice to everyone around them, showing their aloha spirit. I was in middle school when I first came to Kihei Charter, and I tried to adjust as much and as quickly as I could by familiarizing myself with the place and the people around me. My classmates were all cool, and they were friendly enough to me, a newcomer, to make me comfortable while in class. I became closer to some of them as the school year dragged on. The teachers were also nice, though some were stricter, and I learned a lot from them.

My advisor that year, Mr. Jake Hamman, was my engineering teacher. From what I understand, he was part of the school staff the year before, and this was his first time to be a teacher at Kihei Charter. Regardless of how much experience he had, and the little amount of time I was able to spend with him as a teacher, I would say that he was a nice, cool, chill teacher who always had a smile on his face. As an engineering teacher, we did more hands-on activities, rather than papers, and some computer lessons as well. Mr. Jake always made sure that the activities he planned for us had something new we could learn or improve on, all in the most interesting and fun ways!

You see, I was always the type of student with a mindset that there was a given answer to the problem, just like how math problems have a formula to find a solution for every problem. In his class, however, I had to think out of the box to solve all sorts of problems and be creative in our projects. But I also learned to be somewhat resourceful and to simply enjoy all the fun activities set out for us. It was comforting for me, as I was nervous due to not having an engineering class before (because I was homeschooled).

For some activities, especially the messy ones, he would almost always be the one to clean up everything (as it was his room) after a class even if it was supposed to be our (students’) mess to clean up. Although he was a little annoyed about it, I always just saw him brush it off, grab the broom and dustpan, and clean up the mess, ever so patiently. Of course, he would always tell students to clean up after themselves. There were those times where they didn’t, and I felt bad for him every time I saw him cleaning up after students’ messes. I became more conscious of making sure to clean up after myself from then on. At least I hope I wasn’t messy!

There was one activity where my class was divided into groups to assemble a robot. In another activity, we made a bridge (e.g. suspension, truss, arch, cable, beam) using only the given materials such as bamboo skewers, tooth floss, rubber bands, popsicle sticks, tape, and a glue gun. During the bridge project, the whole process of building the bridge was really fun. We used up a few lunch breaks and advisory time, but it was worth the sacrifice! It was also convenient for my group since he was both our engineering teacher and advisor, allowing us to work on it during those times. The fact that he let us use his classroom to work on the bridge during his lunch break (a.k.a. supposed free time from kids), is something I was thankful for and one of the things I admired about him – his love and sacrifice for his students.

Whenever we worked on the bridge during breaks or even in class, Mr. Jake would give us some words of encouragement here and there, sometimes even gave us some beats to listen to while we were working, which really brought up the mood. Later on, I found out that my group and I were the ones whose bridge withstood the most weight. Mr. Jake even had to use something to push onto the bridge until one of the legs of our bridge finally gave in and broke! That made my day, where all our efforts paid off with Mr. Jake’s supporting us.

Remember how I said that he was also my advisor? Well, he was literally the best advisor I could ask for! During engineering class, we had an activity that had to do with vibrations – sound. This was when he showed us how he made a homemade, one-string guitar. He even let us use the strings from his own guitars for this activity. Mr. Jake loved music and he wanted to incorporate something related to it into our class, hence the one-string guitars. When he found out that I liked playing guitar, literally playing with the guitar, since I only knew a couple of chords then, he let me borrow his guitar whenever I wanted during advisory. Throughout the entire school year, during advisory, I would always borrow his guitar as I did not have one at the time. A couple of months later, online school started and I couldn’t play anymore since we could no longer go to school (physically anyway), but I missed having class in person with him and the other teachers even more! Although we no longer met physically, we still had classes online, and it was cool my teachers adjusted fairly easily from what I could see. Because of this, Mr. Jake also had us do a bunch of research and design. We even tinkered around folding a paper airplane that could go further than just a couple of feet. It was a fun school year, and despite some unexpected events.

I’m really glad to have had Mr. Jake as my advisor and engineering teacher. He is a cool guy and a great teacher! He is one of the best teachers I know and has always been there to support his students. To me, there will never be another Mr. Jake.

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Since the company’s inception in 2006, Charter School Capital has been committed to the success of charter schools. We help schools access, leverage, and sustain the resources charter schools need to thrive, allowing them to focus on what matters most – educating students. Our depth of experience working with charter school leaders and our knowledge of how to address charter school financial and operational needs have allowed us to provide over $1.8 billion in support of 600 charter schools that have educated over 1,027,000 students across the country. For more information on how we can support your charter school, contact us. We’d love to work with you!

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