Paul Turnbull


Throughout his career, Paul Turnbull has helped create learning environments that encourage students to thrive. As President of Mid-Pacific Institute, he champions project-based learning and embraces innovation and technology in education – values that he brought with him from his experience at California public schools.


This program will be rebroadcast on Wednesday, Jan. 24, at 11:00 pm and Sunday, Jan. 28, at 4:00 pm.


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In my world, in the preschool through twelfth grade world, I look at the … the defining characteristic of many schools is the old adage that you have to be a certain age before we can expose you to some sort of academic concept or subject. And all of us anywhere have probably been the recipient of a very pejorative: You’re not quite old enough to understand this yet. And while that may have been delivered with good intentions, most of the time, it’s just flat-out wrong.


He’s the president of Mid-Pacific Institute in Honolulu, and he believes that students should be able to pursue subjects that fuel their interest. Paul Turnbull, next, on Long Story Short.


One-on-one engaging conversations with some of Hawai‘i’s most intriguing people: Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox.


Aloha mai kākou. I’m Leslie Wilcox. In 2013, Paul Turnbull became the president of Mid-Pacific Institute in Mānoa, Honolulu, Hawai‘i, one of the largest private schools in the State with an enrollment of over fifteen hundred students from preschool to the twelfth grade. As the head of a school already known for its innovative approaches to education, Dr. Turnbull continues to move the school forward with project-based learning. He embraces the use of cutting edge technology for the students, and he pays close attention to how the changing job market will require very different skillsets, so that teachers can prepare the students. He says family and education are at the center of his life, and this native Canadian combined both when he decided to apply for U.S. citizenship. He enlisted the help of his fifth grade daughter and her class. This took place in 2015, two years after he took the reins at Mid Pacific Institute. The educator became a student again, with grade schoolers learning alongside him in preparations for the citizenship test, which he aced. For Paul Turnbull, the journey to Hawai‘i and U.S. citizenship began up north.


I was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. So, the eastern side of Canada. And my parents are really interesting individuals, and they worked really hard to sort of move us up, and we moved around the Toronto area for quite some time. And then, ultimately, over a period of years and going to different colleges, I wound up on the West Coast, just outside of Vancouver.


When you say your parents tried very hard to move you up, what does that mean?


Well, Mom and Dad both were high school graduates; they didn’t have college degrees. And so, Mom was in banking, Dad was in the telephone company. So, Mom started as a teller, a bank teller, and you don’t make a lot of money as a bank teller. And Dad was climbing telephone poles for quite some time. And ultimately, what ended up happening is that they each found that, I think to their own credit, they were more intelligent than perhaps they gave themselves credit for. And because of that, they worked their way up the ladder, each corporate ladder. So, in the telephone industry, telecommunications, and then in banking. And as that happened, we moved from one neighborhood to the next, and it was sort of the Canadian version of the American Dream where, you know, you realize that all kinds of things are possible.


Were they explicit in giving you advice, or did you learn by example?


Both. In my mom’s side of the conversation, I ultimately learned that the restrictions and sort of the barriers that are put in front of you, either from a societal level or from an industry level—she was a woman in a man’s world in banking, finance. She ultimately ended up becoming the only woman on her floor in the corporate office. So, in Toronto, Bay Street is the equivalent of Wall Street in New York. Only woman on her floor, so that was difficult. And I learned from her that barriers are both real, but they’re also what you make of them. And if you disagree with them and you just apply yourself, and you continually show that you can outwork anybody around you, then things will move. So, she moved very large mountains. Yeah; she did not agree with being told that she couldn’t do something because of her gender, so she just went ahead and did it.


And what about your dad? You said he rose in the ranks as well.


M-hm. So, the funny thing about Dad is that he’s the smartest guy in the room, but he manifests his intelligence into jokes. So, he’s a practical joker. And ultimately, he went from climbing telephone poles to managing a crew, and then ending up overseeing and engineering department in the corporate office as well. So, they ended up actually about two blocks away from each other on Bay Street. And you know, when I was in high school, they were both there.


And that was the equivalent of Wall Street in Toronto.


Correct. Yeah. And even as a high-schooler, you know, you’re jaded, and you think parents are so lame, when you’re in high school. But they would go and have lunch together. And Nathan Phillips Square is the city hall in Toronto. And right in front of Nathan Phillips Square is this very large fountain, but in the wintertime, they freeze it, and it’s a skate rink. And they would go skating at lunch. I mean, even as a high-schooler, I thought that was kinda sweet. So … yeah; they had the nice ability to come together on multiple levels.


Did you have brothers and sisters?


I’m an only.


So, they poured everything into you?


Yes and no. Mom made sure that I didn’t turn out to be representative of the stereotype, that everything is for me. Although my family every so often has to remind me at Christmas that all the presents under the tree are actually for everybody else.


While your parents were both working, you were actually really applying yourself. You did, what, four sports. What sports did you play?


In high school, so I played football, basketball, rugby, track and field. And I was lifeguarding on the side, so every so often for the swim team, they just needed points, so they’d throw me in for like, a fifty-meter freestyle.


So, you loved athleticism.


Yeah. If I was not moving, I was not a pleasant person to be around, so athletics was a very good thing for me, because it just made sure that I was occupied.


How did you do in school?


High school, I could have done much better, mostly because I was, you know, either in a pool, or I was on a field somewhere, or on a basketball court.


Paul Turnbull certainly applied himself in college, earning three degrees, with a fourth, a PhD to come later. He says his mother made sure he was grounded.


My mom reminded me—of course, you know, Mom was always around. My mom reminded me after my third degree that all those letters don’t yet spell J-O-B, so it was time to get a job teaching. So, I did that.


And by the way, how did you decide to be a teacher?


You know, honestly, it had everything to do with my teachers in high school. They clearly loved their job, they loved being together. They were inseparable. It was funny; they were like kids themselves. You know, they were always playing together. We were either playing basketball together, or I would see them going out and camping, and they started an outdoor camping club. So, I learned how to go camping in the snow in high school, and those kinds of things. And it just sort of hit me. I was in physiology class, and Dave Kaye was the teacher. And it just was the most matter-of-fact, I’m gonna be a teacher moment.


Was it a voice you heard, or just this overwhelming thought?


It was just a thought. It was not a voice; it was just, I’m gonna do that.


And then, you stuck to it.


Yeah. Yeah. My family refers to me as Even Steven. You know, if you try too hard to do some things, I think people in life probably have learned for the most part, if you try to force a square peg into a round hole, it doesn’t work. But if you just follow your passion, and you allow things to move with fluidity, that it all works out.


Paul Turnbull followed that sudden realization in physiology class into teaching English and physical education, coaching football and girls’ basketball in British Columbia, Canada. He found he had a passion for teaching. And at a teacher training conference in New Mexico, Dr. Turnbull would find a different kind of passion: the love of his life. Three children later, he can still get a little mushy, just thinking of meeting the woman he would marry.


I was teaching in Canada in Vancouver. My wife was teaching in Costa Rica at an international school. We both were teaching international baccalaureate English. And so, the IB organization is this amazing worldwide organization, and they’re known for rigor and fantastic academics. But one of the requirements is that you have to go to an IB training. So, we were both sent to this conference in July in Montezuma. We had no desire to go individually, of course. And we both went. I was sitting in the Albuquerque airport, looked up. That was it.


Attended the training, didn’t say anything. And then, you were at the airport?


So, we were there for a week, and we ended up in the same class, and it was brutal. I mean, I just … you know, when you fall in love, you fall in love. And, you know.


It was brutal to fall in love?


No; the ability—it’s happening right now. I can’t speak.

It’s just funny. When you … for me … oh, jeez.


You’re thinking back to that time?

Wow; you’re still in love, aren’t you?


Yeah. I think … the ability for us to understand that, you know, there was a great distance geographically between the two of us. And in those days, you know, internet and email, and all of those things were not readily available. So, it was an old fashioned letter writing correspondence.


That befits two teachers.


Which does, especially English teacher; right? So, it was just one of those things where … just like the teaching, when I decided I was gonna be a teacher, it was the most matter of fact, don’t have to contemplate this moment. This is just the next step.


But again, there were logistics issues. You were living in different countries.


Yes. So, at the time, Leslie grew up in Santa Barbara, and so, her parents were currently there. And they weren’t doing very well with their health, and so, it was the right thing to do. So, we moved to Santa Barbara to be closer to them.


That’s a beautiful place to live, too.


Unbelievable. Yeah; absolutely. So, I moved from snowy Toronto to beautiful Vancouver, to even more beautiful and warmer Santa Barbara.


But you did face a little obstacle with jobs; right?


Yeah. So, the difficulty about, you know, immigration is that when you go through the process—and it’s a very interesting, very involved and complicated process. Initially, you get two years. And so, it’s sort of a trial period, as a probationary landed immigrant or resident alien. I showed up, and I have a social security number, so I was able to apply for a teaching jobs. And unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get a job teaching English, which is my first love and my first passion. But an administrative opportunity arose, and I was really lucky to be chosen for that.


But many teachers would not like the idea of moving to administration. They are two different fields; related, but different. Right? Different skills.




So, were you really happy?


You know, I was. So, as a teacher, in my mind, I could have an effect on thirty students in a classroom. But if I were an administrator, and if I had empathy for all the teachers with whom I worked, and I understood some of the barriers that were just, you know, frankly annoying as a teacher, if as an administrator, I could do something to remove one or more of those barriers, then that meant that I could affect how many students in a school.


Did you ever look back? Did you ever say: I want to go back to my first love, teaching?


Frequently; yes.


Oh, is that right?




But you remained an administrator.


I did. It was the path that I was on, and we were together, and we had a family, and you know, sometimes life gives you something that is probably a better course than you think.


Is Santa Barbara where you earned your PhD?


It is; yeah, at the University of California Santa Barbara.


So, you were working and going to school at the same time.


Yes; exactly right. And that’s another reason why I am absolutely just head over heels in love with my wife, because man, did she hold down the fort when I was going through my degree. It was a lot of very intense work.


You eventually became the head of a school district, one of the school districts in Santa Barbara County.


M-hm; that’s right. Yeah; I was the superintendent of the Santa Ynez Valley Union High School District.


How many schools did that cover?


It only had two schools. That’s the interesting thing about California. So, there are a thousand school districts, generally speaking. My particular school district was small by the number of schools and students, but my geographical area was fifteen hundred square miles.


Paul Turnbull married, with three children, and then living in Santa Barbara, California, earned a lot of respect in the role of district superintendent, working with more people in and outside of the school communities. He did not expect to relocate. But in 2012, he received a call that would take him and his family thousands of miles away, to Hawai‘i.


Living in Santa Barbara was a great thing, and I got a call from a search consultant, who asked me to consider Mid-Pacific. And I frankly said: You know what, I have a great life. My wife is working at UC Santa Barbara, and our kids are here, and it’s fine.


If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.


Exactly right. There’s no reason to move. So, I said: Thank you, but no, I’m good. And then, I got a call a couple weeks later and said: No, you should really look. So, we looked; but we look as parents first. Our sons were in boarding school, so that was okay. Meaning that if we had moved away to Hawai‘i, that they’d be fine. So, when we started looking at Mid-Pacific, we were thinking about our daughter, who would have been in fourth grade, had we made the move. And everything that we looked at was great. I mean, it fit our beliefs and our philosophy as a family, it fit, I think in terms of the academic opportunities and the approach to learning that our daughter would have enjoyed. And then, having satisfied that aspect, we started looking at the community, instead of the administrative spot. The community fit very closely with Santa Barbara. And then, I looked at it as a job. And from there, I didn’t see a thing I didn’t like.


As the head of Mid-Pacific Institute now, what were some of the things that surprised you that came along? ‘Cause you know, you had certain expectations moving locations. Anything that surprised you, something really that you didn’t expect?


The community at large, it was just such a welcoming, wonderful … family-centric, individual … kind of place. And California sometimes can be that, and sometimes can not be that. And it’s a very fast-paced “me” kind of place, depending on where you live. Honolulu didn’t strike me as that, and it was a refreshing breath of fresh air. So, that was the first component. As far as the school is concerned, my office is sort of right in the middle of campus, and you can go up to the Kawaiahao Seminary, the old building which is now our center for the arts, and you can go down to the technology centers and you can see the middle school, and then the elementary school. I can have a bad day, and I can go in any direction, be around kids. Easy.


Sometime after you got here, and I know you were received with open arms and things were going very well.




You made another huge decision, which was actually to leave your Canadian citizenship.


So, I’m allowed to have dual citizenship.


Do you have it?




Okay; got it.


Yeah. So, the United States no longer asks you to renounce and remove all other citizenships. But you do have to denounce all potentates, which I think is hilarious, ‘cause who says potentates.

The idea that I wanted to become a citizen really came out of just the fact that I don’t believe that being a member of your community is a spectator sport. I think that we should be active, we should be involved. I had been doing that at the local level in Santa Barbara as a Californian, but I had never been able to vote, the last remaining step on the hierarchy of things to do.


What’s it like learning the civics of the United States? ‘Cause I believe you had to go through classes.


Yeah. So, ultimately, the civics test is ten questions that they ask, but it’s based on a set of a hundred questions possible. And so, the test that you get comes from a guide.


Oh, so you studied up; it wasn’t classes.


Correct; yeah. I didn’t have to go to classes, per se. But what we ended up doing was working with my daughter’s class in fifth grade.


At Mid-Pacific Institute?


At Mid-Pacific; yeah. So, at Mid Pacific, the teachers in fifth grade were great. We have two classes in the fifth grade. I asked them if they’d be willing to help me out. And it was pretty cool. The kids put together like a video study guide for me.

Using the questions from the guide itself, and I had multiple choice options. And I remember sitting in the classroom, and all the kids were on the floor, and the big screen on the wall with all these questions. And every time I got a question right, this sort of piped-in applause would happen.

It was pretty cute.


And your daughter was the springboard for this?


Yeah. We talked originally, and I said: You know, what do you think? ‘Cause she’s a dual citizen, so she’s the daughter of a Canadian and an American, born on American soil. So, she can go to Canada with a Canadian passport, she can stay in the U.S. with a U.S. passport. So, I said: What do you think; should I be like you? And yeah, she seemed … like as a fourth-grader then prior to taking the test, I think she had a little bit of this moment of like: That’s pretty cool; you know, like I’ve got something over Dad.


And I can help him become like me.



Yeah; exactly right. And it was great. She was able to help, the class did a fantastic job. And then, when I got my citizenship, after passing the tests, which it’s always nice to pass a test, we were able to go and go as a class for the ceremony. So, you know, a real lesson in civics for the kids. ‘Cause I don’t know how many people really get to see a citizenship ceremony.


Paul Turnbull feels he’s become a better member of the community because he gained a greater appreciation for the United States and its values through the preparation process for U.S. citizenship. As the president of Mid-Pacific Institute in Honolulu, Paul Turnbull places a heavy emphasis on project-based learning and innovative approaches to education that have the potential for real world applications.


Mid-Pacific Institute has really gotten a lot of great press for technological advancements. But it’s not just being able to use tools; it’s what you do with them. Can you talk a little bit about what you’re doing at Mid-Pacific?


Sure. We really took a look at why we needed to get into different versions of technology, and what they could do as tools. And my predecessor, Joe Rice, with whom you spoke on the show, was really the beginning of all of that. In the late 90s, he opened one technology center, then in the early 2000s we opened the Weinberg Technology Center as well. And thanks to the Hartleys, Mike and Sandy Hartley, the Math and Science Complex that we have at Mid Pacific is host to a center that is really like a scaled-down version of the MIT Media Lab. And in that lab, you have the ability to have engineering and digital storytelling, and design, technological design all together, so that the School of the Arts kids and the engineering-minded kids can work together and find different ways to apply these tools. So, that’s the philosophy behind how we approach technology. The tools that we use indirectly are amazing. I mean, they’re just so much fun. We were the first school in the State to use a one-to-one iPad program, so all of our students, right down to kindergarten, have the ability to have a mobile tablet. Because we believe that the application of that technology brings the classroom from the inside to the outside. And now, your real world, much like my citizenship, becomes more than an academic exercise, but it’s something to be learned and valued, and trusted. We’re the only school in the world right now using, I believe, and I’ve done as much looking and research as I can to prove it, using 3D laser scanning. So, Lidar scanning for historic preservation. And that means that our high school students and our middle school students are using an engineering grade level of laser scanning to go out and digitally capture and restore artifacts in our local community. So, we have a museum studies course that’s a humanities course, and a historic preservation class. They have gone out and scanned, for example, Kaniakapūpū, which is King Kamehameha II’s summer retreat, now dilapidated. And when you look at any very old building, there are no as-built drawings, or certainly they don’t meet code today. But if you scan them, and the integrity of those scans is down to the millimeter, anything that happens from that point forward, we can actually help to rebuild them exactly as they are. But ultimately, all technology will go by the wayside. It will evolve. And if it’s viewed as anything other than a simple tool, then we’re getting the message wrong. Problem-solving, the ability to analyze, the ability to use creativity, collaboration, the ability to bring together in groups problem-solving for the real world. So, how can you actually apply all of your learning. So, if you can do all of that with empathy, and you have analytic abilities to approach new learning or new situations with different types of learning, if jobs go away, we’re not lining students up so that they can only be, in my mom’s case, a bank teller, or only be, in my father’s case, a linesman climbing up a telephone pole. They’re gonna have access to technology and problem-solving skills that allow them to be fluid as the market changes.


At the time of our conversation in late 2017, Mid-Pacific Institute president Paul Turnbull said it was still the only school in the world, and the only organization in Hawai‘i, utilizing 3D laser scanning for historical preservation. Much like Paul Turnbull’s inclusion of Mid-Pacific’s fifth grade in his citizenship process, it’s an example of how education and the real world can come together. Mahalo to this leader in education, Paul Turnbull, a transplant from Canada and the U.S. West Coast, who has embraced Hawai‘i, and who has been embraced by Hawai‘i. And thank you for joining us for this edition of Long Story Short on PBS Hawai‘i. I’m Leslie Wilcox. Aloha nui.


For audio and written transcripts of all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit To download free podcasts of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, go to the Apple iTunes Store or visit


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Mom kept it pretty secretive as to the hard times. But the hard times were more a result of not having maybe what some of the other kids did. Like a few of the families had cars, some of ‘em had telephones, eventually they would get television. Like we never got a television until … no, we never got a television until … I don’t think they ever bought a television, to be honest with you. We didn’t get a phone until I was in high school.


This Maui native, who struggled as a student in his early years, would go on to win Hawaii teaching honors. Retired public school chemistry teacher, Ed Ginoza, next on Long Story Short.


Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox is Hawaiʻi’s first weekly television program produced and broadcast in high definition.


Aloha mai kakou. I’m Leslie Wilcox. Ed Ginoza didn’t realize he could be a good student until a teacher encouraged him. He became a teacher, who in turn, encouraged many students to excel, introducing them to the world of science. For nearly three decades, Ed Ginoza of Kihei taught chemistry, math, and physics at Maui High School. Many of his students have gone on to study science at top colleges, including MIT, Yale, and Stanford, and they’ve had successful careers in the field. And Ginoza says it was important to treat everyone equally, because he knew what it was like to feel less-than as an Okinawan kid growing up on a plantation in West Maui.


I was born in Puʻukoliʻi. It’s a little plantation village. I wouldn’t say little-little, but it was … actually, at one time, it was quite a large village. And we had six children; three boys, three girls. I was the fourth of the six. And Dad was an irrigator, and that’s all I knew him as, an irrigator. My mother … she was a housewife, pretty much. And so finances were real tough. We never got a car until after I left.


So, did it feel like you were getting short-shrift? ‘Cause sometimes people learn they have abundance, even when the money is low, and sometimes it just seems really hard.


I don’t think we felt that deprived, because most of us were pretty much in the same situation. I mean, you’re on a plantation, and all the kids are almost in the same situation. Some people are worse off than others.


What was it like small-kid times on the plantation? You talked about how the family had trouble, you know, with hard times. What else?


You know, grammar school up to the fourth grade was okay. Fifth and sixth grade was kinda bad. I’ve already said that. Seventh grade was bad. Eighth grade was okay. But actually, living in community in some ways was good, because you know, we were all pretty much friends. But being Okinawan had some drawbacks, made you feel a little bit insecure.


Weren’t there a lot of Okinawans on the plantation?


Not where we lived at. There were just three families of Okinawans.


And what was everybody else?


From all over the place. They were considered Japanese; we were considered Okinawans.


And you were always very conscious of that?


I’ve always been conscious of that. And with ourselves, we weren’t treated badly, but my sister was. She suffered some prejudice.


How so?


Because we’re different.


They teased her?


No; I really don’t remember what, you know, exactly what she went through. But I remember my mother or my sister saying, yeah, she had some prejudice against her by certain individuals. So, it was pretty much of a normal life, as far as growing up. We went to the Methodist church and we were part of a youth group, so all our friends were there. But it was a segregated place. I mean, Japanese Camp, Filipino Camp, the Portuguese. And the segregation, a lot of times, came out in fights with the kids,. Because I remember some of my friends would fight with the Portuguese kids.


Because the Portuguese kids’ parents were the lunas.


Right; right. And I don’t know why, but it was just—yeah; yeah.
With kid stuff, it could be anything.




It doesn’t have to have a reason.






Right. And there would be fights with some of the Hawaiian kids. But prejudice was kind of widespread at that point.


And you were a small minority, with only three families who were Okinawan. Now, what would be the discrimination against Okinawans?


In Puukolii, the boys didn’t suffer that. But I know that on Oahu, actually, it was worse, where people would get divorced if they married an Okinawan.


And that was because Okinawans were … country folk?


The Japanese were really almost—you know, their culture is a very homogenous type of culture. Right? They don’t approve of Koreans. Even the great baseball player, he was Korean, actually. But they’re very prejudiced against outsiders. They call them gaijin, or hakujin, they call the foreigners, they refer to them as. But we growing up, I never really felt that with most of my friends. With my friends, anyway. But I remember my dad had some feeling about Filipinos, because my sister was thinking about going out with a Filipino boy, and they objected. Which was always very fascinating, because I have a Portuguese uncle, and you know, he seemed to be all right.


After high school, Ed Ginoza went to college in Colorado, where he graduated with a degree in chemistry, and later earned a master’s in education. Ginoza says his parents initially balked at sending him to college, but ended up sacrificing to make it happen.


Fortunately, Dad and Mom had an endowment insurance policy for about eighteen hundred dollars. The endowment policy doesn’t exist anymore; they made it illegal. But they would get a cash payout after, you know, twenty years or something like that. And they finally agreed to send me to college with that endowment. I look back now, and I think, Wow, they spent their entire life savings to send me to college.


That’s amazing. Where did you go?


I went to a small school in Colorado, Adams State College.


Did you know you wanted to go into science when you started in college?


Actually, I wanted to go into engineering. Don’t ask me how I knew about engineering, but I said, Okay, I like math, I like science, so I wanted to go into engineering. So, I went there with the idea of taking the pre-engineering course, and then after a year, they offered me, you know, National Defense Loan. At that time we had this NDA loan which was three percent interest. And so, they offered that to me, and then my chemistry teacher said, Why don’t you just stay here and major in chemistry, physics, and math, instead of going to engineering school.


And so, what did you get offered? It was a scholarship or a loan?


I had a scholarship for the first quarter, which paid my in-state tuition. Then, during the third quarter of walking down the aisle and the dean of the college—you know, small school, so he asked me how things were, and I said, Oh, it’s going pretty good, I think I’m gonna get a 4.0 grade point average this quarter, while working fulltime in a Chinese restaurant.


Oh, you didn’t mention the fulltime in a Chinese restaurant.
Yeah. Yeah; I worked, well, pretty close to fulltime. I would go in at four o’clock, and I wouldn’t get back until ten o’clock. And so, I reduced one course; I carried twelve credits, and then did that. And so, the dean said, You know, if you want to go to summer school, I’ve got this money that you can have. So I talked to my parents, and my parents says, Go ahead. And the loan actually covered my tuition, my books, and living expenses.


Because you did well in your early days in college.


Yeah; yeah.


Socially, what was it like?


Socially, it was different. There weren’t too many Hawaiʻi kids there. In fact, when I got there, I think there was three of us. Yeah; socially, it was little difficult, because we were different.


And it must have been confusing to people, ‘cause you’re a Japanese guy working in a Chinese restaurant. When did you decide you were gonna be a teacher?


After I graduated, I decided. By then, I had most of the credits to be a teacher. So, I just needed like student teaching, so I said, Okay, maybe I’ll just complete that part.


Now, I’ve heard that you were actually offered a couple of jobs teaching, but you wouldn’t take them, even though you were unemployed, because you felt strongly you wanted to work at a public school.


Yeah; that was after I came back. I went to Baldwin, and we have what they call vice positions, which is a one-year … you know, you’re only obligated for one year. And after 1972, all of us who were probationary teachers were released. So, a friend of mine and I—Peter Martin, he’s now a big developer on Maui, were up at USIU, which is United States International University. And so, we were at the site taking a class, and the head of USIU asked me if I ever considered working with the university. Because they were trying an experimental school, where they were taking high school sophomores, kids after their sophomore year, they were trying to put them in the university. And I also met Dr. Melrose’s wife, who was the head of Seabury, and she asked me if I would consider working at Seabury. But I decided that wasn’t the route for me. I wanted to go back to the public school.




I’ve always been a strong believer in the public school. I’ve always felt that, you know, public schools is where I grew, and I felt that we need teachers in public schools just as much as any place else. And I just, I guess, felt there were certain other benefits that I like about teaching in the public school and working for the State. One was, I knew the retirement system was much better. But at that time, I don’t know why; I just felt like, Okay, I’m going back to public schools.


After one year at Baldwin High School, Ginoza was hired as chemistry teacher at Maui High School, where he wou ld work for the rest of his career, and pick up awards for his teaching. Ginoza firmly believes that being a great educator means helping students in the classroom, and beyond.


Teaching is really almost a creative art that most people don’t realize. You can’t just throw a subject matter at kids. You can’t just stand in front of a class and expect them to love you, or whatever. You have to have, you know, experiences, and you need stories.


So, you need to build a bond.


You need to build a bond. Right; right. And it’s a bond and it’s a trust issue. You need to get the trust of the kids, but you have to develop a relationship with the kids. And this is where I say that most of the relationships I developed, or a lot of it, was after school hours. Like in the 70s, I would take the kids and started a science club, and we’d take the kids hiking all over the island. We actually even went to the Big Island one year. And we would always go through the Haleakala Crater. And what the kids remember is those trips that we took.


So, you you bonded over activities that had to do with—


And classes, too. Because I would keep my room open so the kids would eat lunch there, and they would play chess, or they would ask for homework help. And I actually had classes like on Tuesday nights when I was teaching AP. So, the kids would come. But it was also very social.


That means a lot from you, taking time off from your days off, and taking them to do things, having classes open.


Yeah, it was.


When other teachers might have had some quiet time.


Yeah; most teachers went into the lunchroom, or had quiet time. But I found out, hey, you know, the kids need help, I’ll be there. I gave up my prep period every day after school to work with the kids. Which meant that I would have to do my prep at night, so it was always ten o’clock at night before I’d quit. And weekends, I would be working on their papers. But I also did certain things, I think, that were really powerful. And one of the things I did early on was, when kids took exams, I would always have the results for them the next day, even when I went on a trip.


During the time of mainstreaming, you had a science class, and one of your students was blind.


Yes; I got him when he was a freshman. And I was really very reluctant, because I had to completely change the way I taught the course. And maybe it was good, because now, I had to prepare everything three weeks in advance.


Oh, preparation again.


Yeah; it was. And it forced me to prepare three weeks in advance. Because any written material would have to be first brailed.


Oh …


And I told you about, you know, how his previous teacher had treated him.


How was that?


She would explain something, and then point to the board, not realizing that he was blind. And she had no regard for how he felt. And he was kind of quiet, but that happens a lot with kids. You know, even if they don’t understand, they remain quiet. But then, later on, it would come up. And so, I made sure that everything I said was not only on the board, but I had to verbally give instructions, I had to verbally explain how to do things that would normally require … easiest way to do it is put it on the board. But for example, I remember trying to teach him what they call dimensional analysis. Dimensional analysis is nothing more than doing conversions either from centimeters to millimeters, to inches, or cups to quarts, to gallons. But I had a specific way that I wanted them to do the work. And at first, he had a little difficulty, but the instructions finally took hold. Because one day, he said he was on the bus going home, and he said, I understand how it’s done. Then when he graduated, he came to see me and said, Mr. Ginoza, thank you very much. He said, You made science crystal clear, and I could actually see the universe.


The achievements of Ed Ginoza’s students in science caught the attention of recruiters from the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


1971, 72, when I had my first student going to MIT, there were very few people that were going into MIT. And I just so happened to get the recruiter, who was the past president of the MIT Foundation that ran the place. And he told me; he said what we did at Maui High was very, very unusual. Because at that time, they didn’t look at the applicants from Hawaiʻi as, you know, like a primary recruiting area.


But Maui High stuck out on the list?


Maui High stuck out on the list, to the point where my principal came back, and one of my principals said people in Oahu were talking about how we had the key to the back door at MIT, because we started putting kids in on a regular basis.


You said your kids nominated you for Teacher of the Year in 1988, which you won. What did they say about you? Did they say, Whoa, he’s really rough, but he’ll give you a fair shake?


Yeah. Interesting, because yeah, I was considered as a real tough teacher. But apparently, you know, the impact that I had on them was interesting. I wish I had brought my little book with me that one year after I got that, then the kids had a luncheon in Koho’s, a restaurant Downtown, and they invited me. And all the kids were there, and they presented me with a thank-you book.


Why did you win Teacher of the Year? What was it?


Actually … the kids recommended me. I mean, my students; it was actually the students that decided what teacher they were gonna put for Teacher of the Year. And actually, I got put in twice. In ’87, I went for district; I didn’t picked. Then actually in ’87, I got picked. ’86, I didn’t get picked. But I found out why I didn’t get it in ’86. Because my essay was a little bit too negative.


About what? About the DOE, perhaps?


Yeah, it was about the DOE. I said that it’s unfair for kids to leave in all these classes because of student activities. So, when I got picked again in ’87, then I decided, okay, that didn’t go over too well, so I wrote another essay on a more positive side.


Political adventure there.


Yeah; you know, it’s how you approach. You know, I learned from that first experience that, don’t be negative.


Can you tell when you’re helping kid, that this is going to mean something to them? Or is it not clear at the time whether it’s taking sometimes?


That’s the interesting part. You can tell not by what they say, because a lot of times, the kids will look at you and say, Yeah, yeah, I understand. But you know if it’s not taking hold. I know when it’s not taking hold, so I have to take a different approach to it.


So, at some point, can you see a little light bulb go off?


Oh, yes.


Can you actually see that?


Oh, yes.


You’ve had some students go on to some terrific science positions. Can you recall any of them for me right now?


Yeah; the one I remember, the one that always fascinated me was, I had this girl when she was a junior and senior. And I had taught her, again, dimensional analysis, which is a very powerful tool in teaching physics and chemistry. And she went on to the University. She wasn’t very confident that she could handle engineering. But she wrote back to me and she said, I went to the University, I took chemistry, and I maxed the first exam. And then, she said from there, she went on to Stanford for her master’s in electrical engineering, and she wrote to me from Intel.


Ed Ginoza retired in the year 2000, but he continues to share his passion with students. As a Hawaii Science Bowl coach, Ginoza mentors Maui High School students who are vigorous contenders and high performers at the competitions.


There’s so much time and effort put into that. What does it mean to the students who participate?


For them to participate, and the ones who really take it seriously, it really builds their backgrounds. It really solidifies their background. And the one thing sometimes that I don’t mention is that I actually have them doing the teaching.


They teach themselves?


No. You know, when you teach the kids, some kids are gonna progress much faster than others; right? And like right now, I’ve got a procedure where if one kid is answering all the questions, then I hand him the questions, and he runs the session. Like for example, I have one kid doing it right now, and he’s using the techniques that I taught him. So, they become the teacher. And the interesting part is, these kids come back, and they love to teach. The graduates a lot of times will come back and help me with the math, or whatever. Like, I have kids from MIT coming back and actually doing the teaching; they will teach them some advanced stuff.


You’re not getting paid for it; right?




And it’s not part of school credit, so it’s a labor of love, but it’s also very hard to make it happen.


Yeah; and we’re having actually our twenty-fifth anniversary. But I think sometimes, you know, we look at reward by monetary means. But I felt that there’s things that I did that money can’t buy, because of the success of the kids. I mean, you can’t buy that type of gratification that you get. Money doesn’t … yeah, it would be nice to get paid. People always ask me, Why do you do it? You’re not getting paid for that? And you know, I say, everything’s not about money. I mean financially, I guess, I’m set, so it’s not a problem too. Yeah.


But being a math guy, have you ever computed how many hours you’ve spent training Science Bowl competitors?


I have.


Okay. So, what’s the deal? How much money would you have made if you got paid?


I have never figured out how much money I would be paid.


So, how many hours?


Well, you can figure at least two hours every day, minimum. And not counting prep time, vacations. We go summer, we go Christmas vacation, we go Easter breaks. I don’t know; maybe five, six hundred hours, maybe more. Twenty-something years of doing that.


You mean, not five hundred per year?


Oh, yes; per year.


Five, six hundred per year, times decades.


Pretty close to that; yeah. Maybe not quite five hundred. Yeah, I would say maybe four hundred.


Wow. And it was worth it; it’s all been worth it?


It’s all been worth it.


What about when Punahou beats you?


I’m not too happy.


Well, you beat Kalani, my alma mater.


Well, we beat Kalani, we beat Punahou, we beat ʻIolani. Yeah. ʻIolani’s not too happy when we beat them. And since 2002, we’ve taken six science bowls, so you can figure that we’ve probably won as many as the private schools. You know, any private school.


Makes you feel good to say that, doesn’t it?


Yeah, it does.


Ed Ginoza met his wife in a college physics class. They raised two daughters. And at the time of our conversation in 2016, they’d been married for fifty-one years. Mahalo to Ed Ginoza of Kihei, Maui for sharing your story with us. And thank you, for joining us. For PBS Hawaiʻi and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. Aloha, a hui hou.


For audio and written transcripts of all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit To download free podcasts of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, go to the Apple iTunes store, or visit


There must be something about having taught on an island for so many years, and then you see not only your students, but your students’ kids, and their kids, and relatives. I mean, what’s that like?


I found it to be actually kinda nice. I had an optometrist, and he gave me a free pair of glasses. He lost the bill. Sometimes, I see one of the students I had in high school who I was very close to, and she’s a pharmacist at Kaiser. So, it’s kinda nice in a way, because when you do a good job, the kids also respond in a like manner.




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