There are nine new teachers and staff at the middle and high school this year. To help the student body get to know them a little better, the Eagle Eye asked them to share a few things with us about themselves.
English teacher David McElrath, who is teaching English 10 and 12, spent his childhood in Casablanca, Morocco. For those who are curious, he says, “Yes I have been to Rick’s Cafe; no it’s not like the movie.” He studied philosophy in French at Sorbonne University in France. He speaks French fluently and says that he has probably studied more French than English. McElrath is also a musician, playing several instruments, and loves to sing, in addition to his other passion, reading. Although he enjoys reading many different genres, he especially likes old science fiction. At the moment he lives on the same property as his grandparents where they have been cultivating beehives in their backyard, something he enjoys watching. Before coming to work at HBA, McElrath taught at Kauluwela Elementary School so the school environment is not new to him. However, he added, “After a year of social distancing and remote learning, the sudden appearance of several hundred students around campus, as well as 15 to 20 in my classroom, was a bit of a surprise to be sure, but a welcome one.” One thing he’d like students to remember is that he always has time for a good story, and if not, he’ll make room.
High school Social Studies teacher Robert Weismantel is a familiar face to many at HBA, having previously taught for 8 years at the school before moving to Japan. He has returned fill in for Mrs. Lynne Nakano during her year off. Weismantel was most recently teaching English in Tochigi, Japan. He grew up in Pauoa and still lives there with his wife, Mayuka, and dog, Snoopy. In his free time, he likes to garden, compost, walk his dog, listen to books or podcasts, ride his bike or motorcycle, and enjoy nature. On the first day of school, the long line of cars and mask-wearing students waiting to get onto campus came as a bit of a surprise to him. When the pandemic is over, he hopes that “everyone has the opportunity to travel and experience another culture.” He added, “It opens your eyes to what we don’t have and makes you realize and appreciate what you already do.”
Like Weismantel, high school counselor Sean Ohira was surprised at the long line of cars on Nu’uanu Avenue waiting to drive into the campus. Born and raised in Honolulu, Ohira loves to spend time with his family, travel, binge-watch shows, sleep, eat ice cream and Korean food, and exercise (in that order, he points out.) Previously, he served as the Director of Admissions at Chaminade University of Honolulu, and before that, he lived on the mainland for fourteen years in Los Angeles, CA; Cambridge, MA; and Seattle, WA. Ohira is single and has a dog, Jake, but hopes someday to at least have enough kids to field a basketball team. He is the oldest of seven – his youngest sister is eighteen years his junior and a current high school senior. To the student body he says, “I am excited to walk alongside you as you navigate your high school years. And God willing, I hope to be able to cheer you on at your academic, social, artistic, and athletic events. Please come by my office to say ‘hello’ – I have free snacks if and when you need a pick-me-up!”
Geometry and Precalculus teacher Jacob Bray taught for twelve years at the Naval Academy Preparatory School in Newport, Rhode Island before his wife, Isabel, moved to Hawaii on active duty for the military. They also brought along to Hawaii their yellow lab mix, Thor. Bray grew up in Murphys, a small town in the foothills of Northern California, and enjoys reading, watching sports, spending time with his family, hiking, eating good food, and taking in the outdoors. The first day of school brought a host of new experiences for Bray; being at a different school after teaching at another one for over a decade comes with a few unexpected challenges. Bray said his first day at HBA made him feel “like a freshman all over again.”
Taking photos, drawing and painting, hiking, trail running, and, more recently, surfing, Art teacher Joelle Spainhour, brings her artistic talent to teaching the Middle School Art elective class. Spainhour spent her childhood in San Jose, California, and later spent some time in Southern California and Western North Carolina before moving to Oahu, where she married Gray Spainhour, high school Spanish teacher. Since her teaching job is part-time, she continues to work for a small international ministry where she has been the Communications Director since 2008. She says that the first day of school left her surprised at how genuinely warm and welcoming the HBA community is. She says that she’s excited to get to know her students and watch them make great art.
Science teacher Caleb Peich said that the most surprising thing about the first day of school was that “only one third of [his] students fell asleep while going through the syllabus.” Peich grew up in Pearl City, and most recently was studying philosophy for his graduate degree at Biola University in California, where he also practiced Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Peich hopes to continue with that once he’s settled into work. He is looking forward to the new year and praying that students can continue to come to school in-person.
Moving to Hawaii just last July from Morton, Illinois, outside of his hometown of Peoria, middle school Math teacher Sean Breaux believes God knows exactly what you need to do and where you need to do it. Before working at HBA, he taught middle school math and coached football for thirteen years in Illinois. Last year, he taught sixth grade math at Honouliuli Middle School. When he has the time, Breaux enjoys disc golfing, playing board games, and solving Rubik’s Cubes. He and his wife have two little girls who go to HBA Elementary; Piper is in second grade and Haven is in Pre-Kindergarten. They also have a dog named Shiloh and a cat named Leila. On the first day of school, he was surprised at how hard it was for him to learn students’ names when they are wearing masks. He offers this word of encouragement to students: “Pray and trust God. He is an amazing leader and will take care of you, wherever life may lead you. I didn’t imagine that God would call my family from Illinois to sell everything and move halfway around the world, but He did. He has taken great care of us and we give Him all the glory.”
Before middle school Science teacher Melinda Swanson was the eighth grade science teacher, she was a missionary for eight and a half years in South Sumatra, Indonesia. For her, her local church is her closest family. She lives in a community house with nine other people, where they are intentional about being a part of each others’ lives and growing in faith together. Swanson likes to go swimming and scuba diving, practice judo, crochet, and garden. Swanson, originally from Stillwater, Michigan, taught at HBA for several years before moving to Indonesia. She said, “It surprised me how much Covid has had an impact on students’ positivity about school. A lot of the students said that the first day and week back was really hard. I remember the first days [of school] back being fun – getting to see all my friends again, getting to start fresh in exciting new classes. It’s disappointing to know Covid has turned that fun and excitement into stress and worry.” Swanson is impressed by how everyone really cares for each other at HBA and hopes the same will be said of her.
When she’s not busy with work, Christian Ministries assistant Raelene Hinkel loves to do CrossFit and thrift shop. She is proud to be from “44bangah!!, Kāneʻohe, Hawai’i,” Hinkel is afraid of animals, so there are no pets in her life. She is excited to share that on January 25, 2022, she and her husband, Andrew, are going to have a new addition to their family. Something that surprised her on the first day of school was how many teachers welcomed her here because she thought she was a bad kid in high school. (Hinkel is a 2015 graduate.) This is her message to students: “Please come to my office to say hi!! (A200). I may come up to you randomly to get to know you! If you don’t want to talk to me, pretend you are asleep.”