HSTA launching ‘Thank a Teacher’ ad campaign


Four prominent citizens are featured in HSTA’s TV and Internet “Thank a Teacher” campaign in which they reflect on the positive impact their Hawaii public school teachers had on them.

Actor and martial artist Jason Scott Lee, who graduated from Pearl City High, is one of those featured in the spots.

“I’ve had some incredible teachers. They are what shape your world,” Lee said. “The best way to thank our teachers is to live by the principles that they taught us.”

Lee also attended Aliiolani Elementary, Pearl Ridge Elementary and Highlands Intermediate schools.

Two television commercials featuring Lee and other well-known public school graduates are airing on Hawaii News Now, KHON and KITV between Nov. 9 and 27, targeted after the election and before the prime holiday shopping season when TV viewers won’t be bombarded by as much advertising. The TV spots air during major seasonal programming such as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the finale of Dancing with the Stars and the American Music Awards.

Links to the ads will also appear online starting Nov. 16 on Facebook, Hawaii News Now’s web page and other sites related to education and family interests.

The spots end with Cynthia Chang, a kindergarten teacher at Noelani Elementary, portraying the teacher who gets hugged by Daniel Brummel, a first grader at Noelani. His mother, Kristen Brummel, a resource teacher for Honolulu district, also appears with Daniel and Cynthia in the commercials.

Each 30-second spot ends with the tagline, “It only takes a moment to thank a teacher.”

Designer Sig Zane also appears in the commercials. He said as a student at Roosevelt High, his greatest influence came from his art teacher, Mr. Ishibashi.

“He said, ‘Be different and don’t worry what people think. Your expression is important,’” Zane recalled in one TV spot.

Sunshine Topping, an executive at Hawaiian Telcom, spoke in the commercials about Mel Kaetsu, her anthropology teacher at Hilo High.

“Mr. Kaetsu taught me that I had a lot of potential and that I had the ability to fulfill that potential. He really did believe in me and he really did support me,” Topping said. Kaetsu retired from the DOE in 2008 after a 27-year career as a social studies teacher.

“There are certain people who had a presence in the classroom,” Kaetsu told the Teacher Advocate. “Sunshine made teaching exciting. She didn’t shy away from speaking her mind.”

“It’s because of students like Sunshine that you go into the profession,” Kaetsu said. “What you’re trying to do is not mold them to make them robots. You’re trying to encourage them to pursue something of value to our society.”

Maake Kemoeatu, a former pro football player for three NFL teams, spoke in the ads of how much public school teachers meant to him when he moved to Hawaii from Tonga at age six, unable to speak English.

“Every teacher that I was with, they encouraged me to keep going, moving forward. I wouldn’t be where I am right now if it wasn’t for them,” Kemoeatu said.

Since his father was a minister, his family moved around lot and he attended a number of Oahu public schools including Kalihi, Nanaikapono, Makaha and Enchanted Lake elementary schools.

Kemoeatu graduated from Kahuku High School and went on to play for the Carolina Panthers and the Washington Redskins before going to the Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens and retiring from pro football in 2013. In August of 2014, Kemoeatu donated a kidney to his older brother Chris, who played pro football for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

HSTA Executive Director Wilbert Holck said the “Thank a Teacher” campaign is “our way of promoting something that’s important for teachers — to know that people appreciate them for all they do for children and their communities.”