Where I taught

St, Ann High School, Kaneohe, HI 1956-1959
In Maryknoll there is a tradition that one’s first mission always remains in a special part in one’s heart. True for Kaneohe. Such a small high school: only 85+ students at any given time while I was there. The Junior Class was on top when I arrived and I stayed with their homeroom through Senior year. That meant for first yearbook, the first Junior and Senior Prom, the first class ring which had to be designed along with the school motto. Beginnings have a way of bringing out the best and for St. Ann’s that was very important for the students. The elementary school had been operating since 1927 but the high school was brand new and would last about fifteen years before it closed to give way to a multiple grade elementary school which is now a model school in the Catholic School Department. Its reason for getting started was the need for a Catholic co-ed high school on the Windward side of the Island; its demise was due to the increase in highway access to town and the establishment of Damien High School in Kalihi. For the three years that I was there it was a great place to learn, to engage young students and to get to know the culture.

St. Anthony High School, Wailuku, Maui, HI 1959-1968
The move to Maui was both a surprise and a challenge. The K-12 school in Wailuku had a noble history beginning in the second year that the Maryknoll Sisters were in Hawaii. Just the opposite of Kaneohe, there was a decided pattern how things were done and innovation which had been the coin of the realm at St. Ann’s was hardly negotiable there. On the other hand, St. Anthony had a great reputation to live up to, so students were motivated and great things happened. This was the age of renewed emphasis on science education so Maui’s first Science Fair was a great enterprise. Every student in every science class had to be involved, singly or in a group, and even now I can remember some of the titles along with the comment of the judges. The Hawaiian Academy of Science sponsored a program that flew practicing scientists to neighbor islands and students were exposed to remarkable people. Astronauts Gus Grissom and Rusty Schwiekert stopped by on there way back from the Big Island (Hawaii) and spoke in every classroom, preferring that to an assembly. They were masters of close contact and the students loved it. Another visitor was an Olympic silver medalist from the Japan field and track events, giving me a first to hold an Olympic medal in my own hands!
Leaving Maui in June , 1968, I went to study for a master’s degree in theology at the University of San Francisco. Details about that on the degree page of this website.

Maryknoll High School, Honolulu, HI 1969-1972
Returning from San Francisco with a newly minted MA in New Testament and Early Christian Community Stidies, a major shift occurred: no more science classes gave way to all religion classes. The rationale for that was due in part to the impact of the Second Vatican Council and to the fact that already, after a decade in the classroom, several of my former secondary school students had gone to college and some had taken education degrees and were employed in the classroom. These factors had influenced my choice of initial graduate study and since that time my interest in science had to become an avocation. Teaching religion and designing a program for the entire school with the assistance of the homeroom teahers was a challenge. The use of film as an educational tool was coming into favor and the opportunity arose to have a film course for the Catholic School Department high schools on Oahu. Amazing things grew from that plan. A theater in Honolulu was available for all the students from the five high schools and we designed theme series: respect for life, hero-anti hero, merging cultures. To this day (forty years later!) I can still remember the titles of the films that were shown to this large group. Teachers were given study guides and the program was launched. Years later that experience provided the stepping stone for the International Hawaii Film Festival, an humanities project which in 2010 celebrated its thirtieth anniversary. More details about that in the PROJECTS page still being developed.

University of San Francisco, Summer Sessions, CA 1970 and 1971 and 1972
Father Zabala, S.J. chair of the theology department at USF, had a practice of inviting his former MA students back to the campus to teach undergraduate classes during the summer, giving his regular faculty vacation or research opportunity. Three times I flew from Honolulu and taught 1) Introduction to New Testament, 2) Epistles of St. Paul, and 3) Ephesians, First and Twentieth Century: Comparisons and Contrasts. Each session was filled with students who had to get a religion requirement under their belt, which made for interesting motivations. The students were of many cultures and brought much richness to the discussions. After the third summer I didn’t return to Honolulu but began my course work in Berkeley. Because of convenience (and not having to move) I maintained my residence in San Francisco and travelled across to Berkeley for classes. It worked out to be a good situation both for scholarship and economy.

University of Hawaii, Honolulu Religion Department, Adjunct, 1980-1984
In the fall of 1979, I returned to Honolulu from Berkeley, having defended my thesis and passed the requirements for the Ph.D. The only thing left to do was revise the final chapter which required sending out 100 questionnaires, 50 to a random sample of Maryknoll Sisters who had been parat of the first study and 50 other Maryknoll Sisters, chosem at random from the world-wide community. Knowing that this would take time and would need the use of a main frame computer, I accepted an adjunct position with the Department of Religion. That facilitated my use of the University computer system and began my University career in a secular institution. For the first two years I taught one or two classes each semester and worked with the Institute for Religion and Social Change the remainder of the time. (Or I could say that in reverse order: the Institute was my day job and two afternoons a week I taught a University class. More on the Institute on another page . . .)
After two years in the Religion Department it seemed a good thing to cross register classess so I added titles that worked for either major: Religion or Womens’ Studies. Wonderful interchanges occurred in that setting and perhaps if there is time a description of that experience can be built into another page of this website.

Hawaii Loa College (later Hawaii Pacific University), Kaneohe, HI, Adjunct
Religion Department 1985-1988
During the years shown, Hawaii Loa College was one of the more than 125 United Methodist Colleges and Universities in the United States. An occasional class in their religion department was so special and quite different from those at the University of Hawaii. Besides the awesome geographical setting of the Windward Oahu campus, Hawaii Loa had a different student body which impacted the classes. Because of their department structure I was able to design courses that featured topics or persons. One class was on Thomas Merton, another on Teilhard de Chardin, another on Ecumenism since Vatican II and so on. The religion department had an annual meeting with the students who were given the opportunity to suggest topics so a course on Women and Religion came into existence.
As you can see by the dates, my sessions at UH, although interesting, were morphed into the Hawaii Loa focus because it was a more enriching teaching experience. Also my need for use of the main-frame computer ended in 1983. Besides, parking at UH was as much of a problem as anything else! So on to Kaneohe where parking was easy, students were interested and not argumentative and, as already mentioned, the scenery was spectacular.

Chaminade University, Honolulu 1989-1997, Dean of Humanities and Fine Arts
and Associate Professor of Religion
In the fall of 1989 factors converged to impound my life as Institute Director and adjunct faculty. The financial situation of the Diocese of Honolulu degraded and Bishop Ferrario was no longer able too support the office of the Ecumenical Officer and my secretary. At his suggestion I was hired at Chaminade University, the first semester as half-time associate professor and half time Institute for Religion and Social Change executive director. At the end of that first semester I was elected Dean of the School of Humanities and Fine Arts, which term was for two years and which was re-affirmed four times. In that position as Dean, I administered the departments of Philosophy, Religion, English, Foreign Language: Japanese, Spanish and Hawaiian, History, Political Science and Fine Arts: Drawing, Ceramics and a new division of Interior Design. In that mix of nineteen full time and 50-55 adjunct faculty, I also had six classes to teach each calendar year, fitting them into the “available time” to complete my contract. At that time Chaminade staffed evening and Saturday sessions on seven military bases on Oahu. Both military and civilian students could attend, as long as they were registered in Chaminade. I arranged my teaching load in that sphere, thus allowing me to supervise the external adjuncts as well as be available during day hours for the full time faculty.
My first experience as an administrator was another gift. Before long I saw its dimensions parallel to being an orchestra leader: each professional knew their own part, but it was important to made the overall melody work for the students. Teaching “on the side so to speak” kept me grounded and the nine years there sped by. During most of that time I had a wonderful secretary, Renee Ortegero, who was a delight beyond measure. Besides being such a competent secretary she was not the least bit threatened by my multiple connections. Interpreting that, realize that my Institute links, my work with the Hawaii Committee for the Humanities and other “eternal links” with the broader community continued full bore, and she seemed to understand them all. Even though we don’t see each other too often, she remains one of my treasured friends and I would love to employ her again, this time at a better pay-scale and for even more interesting work. Alas, that is not in the cards but it is good to say it for all to see. Appreciating one’s fellow workers is so crucial for the ministry of education. It is more than a job! Renee told me once that I was multi-tasking before the word was in common usage. And she didn’t miss a beat.

Occasional Unofficial Opportunities to Teach, Preach and Otherwise Expound. (2004 to the present)
After leaving Chaminade (another story not for this page) I went to the Maryknoll Sisters Center in Westchester County, New York (another topic for another page) I returned to Honolulu after five years and took up residence again in Manoa, a house where now I have lived for more years than any other place on earth. Not wishing nor needing to be re-employed in full time education, I continue to work on ecumenical or inter-religious boards of directors and accept invitations to teach or preach as the time allows. Doing a six session course on World Religions in one of the newer retirement facilities or preaching a Vespers Service at another facility or . . . rather than go on with the list there will be more information on the Ecumenical Activity Page as it grows into full stature.

As you read, you already realize that there is always more to come . . .

3 Responses to Where I taught

  1. Sharon Saito says:

    Thank goodness you have this site! I was wondering “whatever happened to Sr. Joan” and was delighted to discover this posting. I’m glad to catch an update of your adventures and accomplishments. Aloha from one of your old students!

  2. Dear Sharon,
    Sorry it has taken me so long to answer. . . six weeks! Bu t I was delighted at your response.

    As you can see, I am pretty busy even at age 78 but happy to reconnect. Are you nearby? In this virtual world who knows where you lay down your head at night.

    I’m in Manoa and would love to see you if that’s possible. Otherwise I will keep on the internet. I travel often and have usually caught up with alums all over the place.

    If you want to phone send me an e-mail. Give me a clue when to call you back. I tease that the M.M. after my name means Mobile Maryknoller not Maryknoll Missioner.


    Joan, M.M.

  3. Cathy Johnson says:

    You always were a mover and shaker, Sr. Joan, and always a delight to know. I was in that distinguished “first class” at St. Ann and we celebrated our 50th class reunion in 2008. You remember, I know! Look forward to seeing you again when I am next in Hawaii. Great to know about your web site … interesting stuff! Keep it up.

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