Kupuna Achiever Christina Small reflects back on years of teaching

Whether teacher or principal, Small says teaching is her mission

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Christina Small began her teaching career in Hawaii at Waianae Elementary and later went to Leihoku Elementary Schools. There in Waianae, she has fond memories of raising her two sons with her husband.

“My husband taught for 34 years, and I taught for 19 years in the Waianae Coast schools,” Small says. She then trained for administration, later becoming a middle school vice principal. By 1994, she became principal at Liholiho Elementary School and still is to this day.

Small went to college in Los Angeles, entering UCLA and then transferring to Cal-State at Los Angeles to get her teaching degree.

“I volunteered to teach in a high need area in a Los Angeles Compton school during the Watts riot because I was motivated to make a difference in low income areas.,” Small says. “There I met a teacher, Mrs. Brown, who told me, ‘the children need to learn to READ.'”

Small says being an educator, whether teacher or principal, is her mission. Although always asked when she will retire, she still gets joy from seeing students excited about learning — especially reading.

“I love watching kindergarten and first grade students when they first learn they can read. I call it the magic of reading,” she says. “Students are the same anywhere in the world. They are full of wonder and awe about small things.”

Small believes that attitude and motivation in life are everything. She emphasizes that it’s critical to never lose that childhood wonder, awe, and openness to learning new things. Even if you’re having a bad day, Small says persistence in following your dreams and passions is key.

“Drink a cup of hot cocoa and go to sleep. The next day brings new promises!” she says.

Small leaves this quote as some final words of wisdom: “Some men see things as they are, and ask, ‘Why?’ I dream of things that never were and ask, ‘Why Not?'”

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