Waipahu High School senior Daniel John Quiamas appeared to be well on his way toward a future career in engineering. The 17-year-old aced his mathematics and engineering classes in high school. He also helped rack up impressive wins for the school’s robotics team.
But Daniel had a change of heart. He now has his sights set on becoming a teacher, ideally at his alma mater, where he envisions himself teaching mathematics.
“I thought that’s what I wanted to do,” he said of pursuing a career in engineering. “I liked math. I liked science a lot. I enjoyed learning about the engineering design process. But as I got older I started to, for lack of a better word, I got a little bit bored.”
After having the opportunity to coach and mentor younger students on his robotics teams, Daniel said he discovered a passion he never knew was there.
“I found that I liked that teaching part way more. And I thought back to all the things that my teachers did for me throughout my public school education from Honowai Elementary, Waipahu Intermediate and now here,” Daniel said.
Daniel credits Roslyn Kanae, who was his 6th grade Gifted and Talented teacher at Honowai Elementary, for encouraging him to be more outgoing.
“I was really, really, really shy. I was afraid of challenge. I didn’t do anything that seemed risky. I always tried to play it safe,” he recalled of his elementary school days.
“Mrs. Kanae, she looked at that and I felt like she really tried to bring the best out of me because she motivated me to gain more self confidence. She motivated me to become a more confident leader, a more confident speaker to the point where I was like a turtle who popped out of my shell because of her,” he said.
Daniel said the thought of inspiring other students fueled his newfound passion for teaching.
“I realized I liked that idea of building and allowing someone to grow. I felt that that was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” he said.
At the start of his senior year, Daniel moved out of Waipahu High’s Engineering Academy and enrolled in the Teacher Education Academy. He spent the school year as a student-teacher cadet, immersing himself in college-like training by observing teachers in their classrooms, helping craft lesson plans, shadowing teachers and even leading some classes at his high school.
As part of his cadet training, Daniel was exposed to teaching in 5th grade and 8th grade classrooms. At the high school level, he helped teach lessons in World History and Economics.
“Those experiences — observing a class, getting to make my own lesson plans and teaching the kids, forming relationships with my students — strengthened my initial thoughts of wanting to become a teacher,” he said. “Now I know it’s really the field I want to go into.”
Kanae, who is now a vice principal at Honowai Elementary, said she was thrilled to learn about Daniel’s plans to pursue teaching.
“Daniel would make an excellent teacher. He understands what it’s like to be a shy kid who’s afraid of speaking out,” Kanae said. “He made his own conscious decision to become more outgoing. He chose to leave his comfort zone.”
Waipahu High physics and science teacher Tessie Lumabao Ford, who heads the Engineering Academy, described Daniel as passionate, hardworking and dedicated.
Lumabao Ford said she initially was a little bummed to learn that Daniel wouldn’t be joining the engineering field, knowing how good he’d be at it. “But I thought it made sense and that it’d be really awesome because if he were to come back (to teach at Waipahu), I’d definitely want to work with him,” she said. “I can see him as being a really great and awesome teacher.”
Daniel said he knows the teaching profession isn’t for everyone. He acknowledges the earning potential is much higher for engineers than for teachers. But he isn’t deterred.
“Even though people say all that stuff about teaching, I feel that if you as an individual are happy with what you’re doing, that’s all you need, honestly,” Daniel said. “Sure, the money may be low compared to other four-year degrees, but that’s not important to me.”
He added that his parents are supportive of his decision. Daniel’s dad is a special education teacher and his mom used to be a teacher in the Philippines.
Daniel plans to study teaching at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where he has received a UH Regents Scholarship that will cover his tuition for four years and provide annual stipends. He said he chose to stay in Hawaii for college because he wants to complete the student-teaching portion of his degree program in Hawaii.
“I knew when I wanted to become a teacher that I wanted to teach in Hawaii because I want to give back to Hawaii,” Daniel said. “I felt that if I’m going to be doing student teaching as a student in college, I should get that experience here.”
He wants to start teaching as soon as he completes his undergraduate degree, but plans to go back to school at some point for his master’s degree.
As one of the valedictorians for his senior class, Daniel will be a speaker at Waipahu’s graduation ceremony. He said he plans to encourage his classmates and underclassmen to be adventurous.
“Don’t be afraid to try new things. You’re going to find something you love doing that you’ve never done before. That was the case for me,” he said. “Follow your heart. You know what’s best for yourself.”