Series: 2023 Teacher Appreciation Week

Marcus Nakama


Rachelle Domingo

Marcus Nakama uses a Dr. Seuss book to illustrate points in his class.

Rachelle Domingo, Guest Writer from Pohaku Makamae

The first impression I got from Marcus Nakama was that he was excited. Also that his classroom was bare from any decoration other than little trinkets near his desk, as well as two rubber ducks found in high places – his projector and above the exit/enter door. My usual dealings with over excited teachers was that they were happy all the time which would eventually get me annoyed when I’m exposed to them in long bursts. Though that could be because I’m not one of those people who like to be around cheer all the time. Either way, it hadn’t gone like that with Nakama. He was genuinely excited to start teaching us about Psychology. 

Once we did get into the class, he gave us a warning that we’re going to be subjected to experiments. For science, of course. He likes to do what’s called, ‘active learning,’ in which students get involved with the lesson or assignment. He’s done this before with his other history classes. Well, we weren’t history, but he’s a social studies teacher and technically Psychology and Sociology is under social studies. 

Nakama learned about ‘active learning’ from Corey Rosenlee, another James Campbell High School teacher, who had explained how connecting students emotionally or physically has students learn better. Rosenlee was one of the more veteran teachers when Nakama startin g out. 

He’s done an entire week of an open market in one of his PID (Participation in Democracy) classes. For that, he taught a very distinctive difference between the economies like socialism and capitalism. The open market itself was an assignment where they had to get into groups and make either a product or a service they would sell. By the end of the week, the students tally up their profits and the group with the most money got the highest score while those who weren’t that one group failed. 

The reason being, is that they would understand that capitalism is a ‘dog eat dog’ world that requires people to step on others in order to get to the top. The grading made the students mad and frustrated, latching them onto the very idea of how unfair capitalism is. Being emotionally connected to a topic makes it easier to understand, as they would get how those affected by the topic feel as well. 

For us in Psychology, he had given us an assignment to break a social normality. So that we could understand that society does give us unspoken rules that everyone subconsciously follows. That, if broken, people would react as if the rule breaker was the odd man out in society. He even told us that some former students came to school dressed all fancy, what that student felt was being stared at and judged for their clothing. Since going to school dressed in a suit or a flowy dress is not really considered, ‘school attire.’ It wasn’t inappropriate to wear, just viewed as weird since people don’t dress as fancy as they did for school. 

That, as a student myself, is a very fun way to learn. It’s not the way to learn for everything, because I don’t really have any idea how it would do in math, but for things such as social studies it’s a great way to have students learn. Nakama is what I would consider a fun teacher who enjoys it when students finally get something. He finds the way students get their theoretical lightbulb above their head and an understanding “oh” a reason why he likes to teach. He likes to see that happen in front of him. 

Nakama isn’t only a social studies teacher, for the past three years he’s been one of the teachers for the core class of The Academy of Creative Media. How he got there, he had no idea. All he was doing in his classes was having his students bring their art skills from their ACM (Academy of Creative Media) classes and put it into his assignments. Since, a while ago when the academies were being made, he got to see how some academy classes touched upon the career classes and applied them into their assignments or works. Nakama finds that he had very limited art skills but now has to teach a bunch of freshmen how to do art things. 

The one thing that he can easily give his students is storytelling skills, as he is a social studies teacher who tells stories of the past. His students are doing well improving their art skills despite his lack of knowledge in the field and that makes him happy. “That idiom, or that old saying where, ‘do as I say, not as I do,’ is everything I embody and I feel like I’m faking it and don’t feel that I’m the right person for it, and next year I’m not,” said Nakama about his teachings in his core class. He doesn’t feel bad that he’s not being a core teacher anymore, as social studies is more his strength. 

Nakama does something that I haven’t seen before in any of my classes. Maybe one class I had in middle school, which was coincidentally also a social studies class, had us watch CNN news as soon as class began. Though we didn’t really get into it all that much. Nakama, though, introduces news stories, issues happening with the world, and local things at the beginning of class. He had talked about, when I was his student, topics such as the death of the queen, the local election, and even the world cup. He brings up topics to talk with students with and engage them with the world. As well as get their opinion on what they think about what’s going on in the world. 

Overall, to me and many other students, Nakama is a great teacher. Even if he doesn’t think he is one. He’s tried to keep up with the trends. He tries to get us engaged in his lessons, let us draw on his boards and erase them – to give us a lesson on impermanence, puts our artwork all over his classroom, and generally has me excited to be in his class. Even if he is just a man who is getting into botany (with a future bonsai class and eight bougainvilleas which are just as tall as me or bigger), a Covid dog dad (his name is Louie and he’s got pictures of him near his desk), or a – what he calls himself – buoy in the water who tries to surf. Truly, I don’t know him personally, but from what I know of him now. I consider Nakama to be a great teacher and a fun person.