By Sam Ehrhart | Staff Writer
Professor Frank Palakiko Yagodich has a unique way of teaching his classes.
Teaching both Hawaiian Studies and Hospitality and Tourism courses here at KCC, Palakiko (who prefers to be called Palakiko instead of Yagodich) routinely plays his ‘ukulele to get students involved with the lesson. His ‘ukulele mellows the mood of the classroom and allows students to feel comfortable in his class. People can also sing or jam alongside him while he plays Hawaiian songs, which he enjoys.
“I like his teaching style,” said 25-year-old Josh Tom, who has taken two classes from Palakiko. “He’s unique, I’ve never had a professor teach pidgin. He makes students more engaged. I look forward to coming to class.”
Along with his ‘ukulele songs, Palakiko also uses Hawaiian oli (chants), dances, demonstrations, drawing activities, and group talks to convey information to his students. A majority of class is spent with him encouraging his students to say Native Hawaiian chants and to draw pictures of what he is teaching them. He does this to connect his students closer to Hawaiian culture. While he wants his students to have fun in his classroom, he is also trying to teach his students in different ways.
“Colleges in the U.S. teach you to pass a test and then move on which can hinder a students’ productivity, but multiple angles of education lets a student thrive,” he said.
Originally from Haiku on Maui, Palakiko never wanted to be a teacher. As a child, he dreamed of being a firefighter or a police officer, and in high school his dream was to be “an international reggae superstar,” he said.
Growing up, his parents taught him to work hard, and his grandmother saw his teaching potential in him at a young age. His parents taught him to always try his best and to develop his own opinions about ideas.
“My tūtū (grandmother) told me, boy you gonna be a teacher when you grow up,” he said. “She told me that the kuleana (responsibility) of a great teacher is to pull knowledge out of a person, not to simply fill their mind with a lot of information.”
Palakiko, who is now 45 years old, has a bachelor’s degree in Hawaiian Studies from UH Mānoa. Palakiko has been teaching at KCC since 1998, back when he was involved in the Continuing Education Program.
His unique classroom presence has been one of his hallmarks since he started at KCC.
“I am not a trained teacher, I did not go to school for education,” he said. “I just started to teach with the life skills I had. I love my ʻukulele and my Hawaiian culture, so I wanted to teach others how I grew up learning, through songs and story-telling. I just want students to learn as much as I wanted to learn.”
“His activities make students participate more and they get you out of your bubble,” said Ryosuke Asai, a 20-year-old who has also taken two of Palakiko’s classes.
Palakiko wishes to teach his students in a way in which they can work hard to find the answers to questions for themselves.
“I think that I’m into activities and discussions so much because I feel that they are the best way for students to understand the answer to questions,” he said.
Palakiko also wants students to understand and appreciate the Hawaiian culture that is all around them on a daily basis. His main goal is to teach his students about the concept of aloha ʻāina, or “love for the land.” He said he believes that by teaching students about aloha ʻāina, they will better understand why we need to protect and care for our home.
“For me, aloha ʻāina is a place that you love as your home,” he said. “Now, what if we can spread that love to an island, to a state, to a nation, to a world? That’s the goal of my education; I dream big.”