An educator works to build his dream: a charter school in Hawaii
Alex Teece had such a phenomenal educational experience at Williston that it got him wondering: Why can’t every kid have access to the same? After Teach For America brought him to Hawaii eight years ago, he settled into life on the island of O’ahu. He’s working to start the DreamHouse Ewa Beach charter school, of which he’ll serve as founding school director. In the spring of 2016, he graduated as a Zuckerman Fellow from the Harvard Graduate School of Education with a master’s degree (his third) from the School Leadership Program. At Williston, he played 17 seasons of sports and also coached soccer at the Middle School his senior year.
What teacher had the most impact on you?
Paul Sonerson had high expectations for me as a student and as a person. On the first day, I forgot my assignment notebook, and I made a joke that I had left my assignment notebook on my hamster cage at home, and he pulled me out, right in front of the entire class on the first day, and he said, “Now you’ll never forget that assignment notebook again, will you?” I said, “No I won’t.” And he said, “Jokes are fine, just don’t be a clown.” And I distinctly remember that from when I was, what, 12 years old?
What did you learn from playing 17 seasons of sports?
It gave me an outlet to build friendships and teamwork, and to learn about myself, about competition and composure, and losing with grace, and good sportsmanship. All of those things layer onto academics.
What major political or social events do you remember?
I still remember exactly where I was when the planes hit the towers on 9/11. I walked into the Stu-Bop, and I caught the second plane hitting the second tower. That was really shocking to me. We had an emergency meeting in the Chapel, and then we went to classes. But it wasn’t regular classes. I remember just sitting down and talking about what was happening, the shock, the fact that there were “terrorists,” and we just started to flush that out, the day of, at 15 and 16 years old.
How did Williston impact your career path in education?
I was so blessed to be able to go to private school and see how exceptional the experience was. I went into Teach For America and started teaching in a public school in Hawaii, and I realized that there was a very, very stark difference. For me, I think the big question is, why is that the case? Why do we often find that expectations are lowest for our children growing up in poverty, and the outcomes are drastically less compared with kids coming out of private school? Why can’t we have the same bit of energy, focus, expectations, and culture in our under-resourced public schools as we do in our most affluent areas in private schools?
Why is this school your passion?
I have a vision of kids growing up in the community and being empowered to be leaders, and going to college, and coming back to lead their community. There’s a bit of fundraising involved, a bit of business, a bit of politics, a bit of community mobilizing—all of that wrapped into a project that will hopefully empower the next generation of leaders in Hawaii.