- Associated Press - Saturday, October 24, 2015

HONOLULU (AP) - In 2013, there were whispers about Saint Louis School shutting down.

Alumni and supporters rallied, and now the campus is clearly, palpably vibrant. The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Sunday. Construction of a new athletic complex is underway behind dust screens. The offices in Bertram Hall have just been renovated and still have that new-carpet smell. Enrollment jumped to 630 students from 560 the year before. Next year, the school will be adding grades K-5, which will mean 12 new students per grade. And, of course, there’s that glow of having an alumnus who just won the Heisman.

It’s an exciting time to be leading the school.

So how did Glenn Medeiros go from pop star with a hit song with Bobby Brown, of all people, to Dr. Medeiros, head of school for the third-oldest school in the state?

The story starts when he was a kid in Koloa Elementary on Kauai.

“I wanted to be a teacher at a very early age,” Medeiros, now 45, said. “I had friends who weren’t doing well in school, but when we played together outside, I felt they were smarter than other kids. I noticed that they did well with some teachers but not with others. I was already kind of analyzing teaching.”

Medeiros grew up in Lawai, a green hillside community on the east side of the island. His dad was a tour guide. His mom, a homemaker who was sometimes sidelined with a condition that affected her equilibrium. He was one of four children. “When I first started school, I couldn’t even write my name,” Medeiros said. “A lot of the other kids had gone to preschool, but we couldn’t afford it.”

At Koloa Elementary, Medeiros met music teacher Arnold Meister. “I was a shy kid, but Mr. Meister picked me out of the group and said I could sing,” Medeiros said. Meister insisted the young Medeiros perform on stage. “I was deathly afraid,” Medeiros said, but Meister coached him through it, even gave him a keyboard so Medeiros could teach himself how to play it at home. Meister was right. Medeiros could sing.

“What I learned is that once you get to a point where you start believing in yourself, it extends to everything else. Your confidence starts to build. I was an average student. Before that, I didn’t have much belief in myself.”

He learned from Meister about performing, but the bigger lesson was about how to teach - how to lift up - a child.

It would be years before Medeiros could turn his attention to his original goal of becoming a teacher. He had hit records and was touring when he was in high school and still isn’t sure how he managed to graduate, though he does remember doing homework on the road and mailing it back to Kauai. “The whole time I was singing, I knew I wanted to be an educator. But I knew if I went to college, I’d first have to build up my skills in everything.”

So, a brief refresher on the whole fame-and-fortune thing: At 17, Medeiros won the Brown Bags to Stardom talent contest, which came with a recording opportunity. His song got picked up by mainland radio stations and soon he had a recording contract with a major label. From 1987-1999, Medeiros sold over 7 million records, had two Top 10 records in the U.S. and three No. 1 songs in Europe. His videos were on MTV, he toured 40 countries, he wrote hundreds of songs. In 1988, the year he graduated from Kauai High School, he sold more albums in France than any other pop artist.

When his recording career started slowing down, he came home to Hawaii and enrolled in Leeward Community College. He was 24 years old and gigging at night in Waikiki. He started with courses to bring his math, reading and writing skills up to college level. After that, he kept going. He got his bachelor’s in history from the University of Hawaii-West Oahu. He got his master’s in elementary education from the University of Phoenix and, in May 2014, his doctorate in educational leadership from USC.

The whole time he was pursuing his education, he was working in the field. Medeiros’ list of classroom assignments is impressive: He was a special education teacher at Mililani Middle School, writing dozens of Individual Education Plans; he was a music teacher at St. Joseph School for prekindergarten to eighth grade; he taught kindergarten, second and fifth grades at Island Pacific Academy; and he taught AP U.S. History at Maryknoll and Asian History at Punahou summer school, to list just some of his classroom experience. He is not an administrator who never spent time as a teacher.

Most recently, he was vice principal at Maryknoll High School. He was named president of Saint Louis School last spring, but decided in planning meetings over the summer that he would be called head of school. “A president handles all business aspects - bringing in funds, overseeing spending - it’s strategic rather than tactical. A principal is more tactical, dealing with implementing strategies. The head of school is both the president and principal rolled into one,” he said. Yeah, more work, but, “it improves communication, and with the size of our school, it makes sense.”

When he talks about educational theory, Medeiros is on fire. The concepts he learned as a teacher and as a grad student reach all the way back to his friends in Koloa school.

“I believe that every student can be successful,” he said. “Every student is intelligent in their own way. We don’t want students walking out of school feeling lesser-than. As a school, we are here to allow each student to reach his full potential.”

His dissertation for his doctoral program was on using computer-assisted instruction to help students learn at their own level, based on the idea of zonal proximal development - basically setting aside time for students to work independently on computers to teach themselves the skills they need to excel in class.

“Teachers tend to teach to the middle of the class. The top students get bored and the ones on the bottom get lost,” he said. His vision is to create class periods in the schedule where students will be able to work on computers, with the guidance of a teacher, on the specific skills they need at the level at which they need it. He piloted a similar program at Maryknoll and says in just six months he saw significant results.

He’d also like to see Hawaiian language and culture being taught from kindergarten to 12th grade at Saint Louis. Though he is not Hawaiian, he studied Hawaiian language in college. “It’s important to know who you are and where you came from before you leave Hawaii and spread your wings.”

The new elementary school will initially pair grades together in a dedicated wing on campus. The high school boys will be called upon to help the littlest students, too. “One of our big things at Saint Louis is brotherhood,” he said. “We will have opportunities for the grades to have exchanges with their brothers.”

The lower grades will also have science, technology, engineering and mathematics classes in the campus robotics center. And of course, the Saint Louis campus has the beautiful Mamiya Theatre, and Medeiros knows what can happen when a boy is encouraged to go on stage and taught to use his voice.

Clearly, Medeiros is driven. You’d have to be driven to push your pop star self step by step through community college all the way to a doctorate and survive all those challenging classroom gigs. But his ambition doesn’t read like he has something to prove. “It’s about intention,” he says when I ask. “My intention is to help, not to be in a position of power.”

When Medeiros answers questions about his pop star days, he doesn’t sound wistful at all. He’s grateful it happened but excited about where he is now and happy for everything he learned in between. Sometimes, people just can’t help being star-struck and fixated on that stuff, but those who know him understand that’s only a part of who he is and what he’s done.

At a Saint Louis homecoming assembly a few weeks ago, each class had to perform a skit. The senior class danced to a mix of hip-hop songs, but in the middle of the performance, busted out a fake ballet to a sample of “Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love for You,” Medeiros’ big love ballad.

“That has happened at every school I’ve ever worked,” he said. “You gotta just roll with it.”


Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, https://www.staradvertiser.com

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