Wima Chulakote is a Kapi‘olani Community College (KapCC) alumnus. He currently teaches at-risk students at Olomana School. As recipient of the 2010 Hawai‘i State Teacher of the Year Award, Wima shares a story of believing in himself and preserving respect for those who believed in him.
Wima was born and raised in Thailand and eventually made his way to study in America because he knew that “education was the only way out from farming in the rice paddies the rest of my life.”
Initially, Wima was not accepted by KapCC because his TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) score was too low. With the sad prospect of possibly having to return to Thailand, his sponsor arranged for him to meet with the academic dean. Wima was given the chance of studying for one semester at the college, and if he did not do well, he agreed to leave his studies and the college.
Wima feels fortunate that he chose KapCC: classes were small and the instructors were very patient and accessible. “I felt blessed having instructors who understood my needs and were available to assist me whenever I needed help.”
From the first semester followed by every subsequent semester, Wima was on the Dean’s List. Eventually he matriculated to UH-Mānoa. “Because KapCC’s academic dean had faith in me and gave me a chance, I felt that I not only had to succeed in school, but I also felt compelled to do my best and eventually return the kindness. I owe a great deal to KapCC.”
Wima also attributes the feeling of ohana, of family, which KapCC fostered that allowed him to build confidence in his speaking skills. “I liked working together and collaborating with my classmates. I felt I was learning as much as I was teaching. There was always a unique sense of bonding not just between students, but between the teacher and the students.”
Wima is passionate about his teaching and he always looks for the potential in his students. He begins with finding ways to get students to believe in themselves, and then to believe in the beauty of their dreams. He has learned that a focused mind is probably the most powerful force in the universe.
And Wima’s story continues. His son now attends Kapi‘olani Community College. Perhaps their journey is simply a shared path.
Wima Chulakote has come full circle. The priceless gifts he gives to his students are the lessons he learned from an academic dean so long ago: In seeing the good in others, he learned to develop the best in himself. And, his priceless message is, “You cannot lose unless you quit trying.”