Former Kauaian looks back on her Mainland teaching career and life

When Marsha Honnold graduated from Waimea High School in 1960 and left for Washington state to become a teacher, she became part of a vanguard of a new generation of Kauaians eager for life beyond the island.

Honnold, whose maiden name is Cuizon, joined young Kaua‘i people who broke from tradition and moved off island for college and work.

They were among the first graduating high school seniors from Kaua‘i following statehood in 1959, and they wanted to live the Mainland experience.

They attended Mainland schools, and some remained in the Mainland to pursue their dreams and forge careers and future lives.

Honnold said she thought about returning to Kaua‘i after college, but found she couldn’t, partly because she yearned to see the world.

Over the next 36 years, she traveled, taught and lived in parts of Europe and the western United States.

She says she would not have traded the experiences for the world, because she was able to visit faraway places, take in new cultures, peoples and experiences and share her stories with thousands of students she taught.

The information, she hoped, would broaden and deepen their appreciation of different cultures. In doing so, she learned to understand and appreciate her own Hawai‘i roots.

Honnold retired in June following 36 years as an educator, the last 17 with the Santa Barbara School District in Santa Barbara, Calif. Honnold lives there with her husband, Greg. Her two grown children live nearby.

Since Aug. 8, Honnold and family members have been on Kaua‘i visiting her 81-year-old-mother, Feliza Cuizon, who resides in O‘mao. They return home next week.

Honnold said she and her husband have visited Kaua‘i periodically, and that she relishes being back home.

“It is a reward to myself after working in education for 36 years and now retiring,” Honnold said. “And what better place than to visit, Kaua‘i, my home, where it all began.”

Honnold attended Koloa Elementary School, ‘Ele‘ele School and Waimea High School. Her upbringing and schooling, she says, spurred her interest in becoming a world traveler and teacher.

“When I was in the fifth grade in Koloa School, my teacher, Mr. Isoda, led us through history lessons, mostly on Egypt and Greece, and we compared it to Hawaiian history,” she says. “I knew then I wanted to see those places.”

Honnold said her parents instilled in her the value of education and of gaining knowledge.

“My dad had a sixth-grade education, and my mother had a ninth-grade education,” Honnold said. “They instilled in me that education is something that nobody can take away.”

The same message was passed onto her two brothers and two sisters. Of the five children in the Cuizon family, four children are educators.

Honnold’s father, Marcelino, worked as a shift sugar boiler at Koloa Sugar Mill, and has passed way. Her mother worked at what was then the Big Save-Ben Franklin Store in ‘Ele‘ele.

She said she wanted to be a teacher since she was in high school. Her decision to become one was further influenced by a school librarian, Honnold said.

“She was really mean, but I liked her because she was a disciplinarian. I was like her. I was a disciplinarian in my classroom,” Honnold said.

She said she liked to think she was progressive for her time. Many young women found satisfaction in being a housewife, but Honnold, who is a mother of two grown children now, wanted to be housewife and more.

“I wanted to travel and see what other cultures were like, and I have done that,” she said.

After graduating from high school in 1960, Honnold attended Western Washington State, studying to become a teacher.

The idea of leaving home was intimidating and enticing, Honnold recalls. “I was scared to leave Hawai‘i because I didn’t know how to use a pay phone or catch a cab, and I went by myself. But there was the adventure,” she says.

She graduated with a four-year degree in education and history in 1964, and began teaching at Washington School in Auburn, Wash.

While Honnold taught at the school from 1964 to 1967, Honnold met teachers who secured contract teaching jobs at U.S. military bases in Europe. She decided to follow suit.

Between 1967 to 1969, Honnold worked as a librarian at the Ramstien Air Force Base in southern Germany.

While there, she went on tours through parts of Germany and to Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Denmark. She spent a summer in Ankara, Turkey, to learn how to better use audiovisual equipment in her classes.

She married in 1969, to Greg Honnold, Sr., an U.S. airman from Denver who was stationed in Turkey. He later served in the Viet Nam conflict.

In 1970, Honnold returned to teach at Washington School. She also attended the University of Nevada at Las Vegas to finish up certification for teaching.

In 1971, after her husband had been honorably discharged from the U.S. Air Force, the couple moved to Modesto, Calif. where she taught second grade students until 1976.

The couple’s son, Gregory, 29, lives in Santa Barbara, and works in the insurance business, sometimes with his father. A second son, Richard, 27, lives in Carpinteria, just south of Santa Barbara, and works in sales.

In 1976 the family pulled up roots, moving to Arvada, Co., where she worked as a pre-school and substitute teacher until 1981. She cut back her teaching time to take care of her young children.

The family moved again and settled in League City, Texas, where she taught first grade in the Hitchcock School District from 1981 to 1986.

The family made its final move to Santa Barbara in 1986, and for the next 17 years she worked as a librarian and as a fifth-and-sixth-grade teacher with the Santa Barbara School District, retiring as a full-time instructor in June.

While working in that school district, Honnold distinguished herself, winning the Santa Barbara Rotary Club Teacher of the Year award in 2000.

Honnold also was honored by KCET Television in Santa Barbara for expertly using television equipment in the classroom.

Honnold said her most memorable moments in teaching have come during 15 years of teaching and working with economically and academically-challenged students in Santa Barbara.

“They learned life skills,” she said. “It was very rewarding to help students prepare for productive lives as adults.”

She has taught thousands of students in her career, and she believe she has reached many of them because of the reciprocal respect she and students have had for each other.

“It has been my experience that some kids come to school thinking they are dumb,” Honnold said. “That is not true. Everyone is smart. Everybody has some talent.”

Honnold said she has strived to help students build their self-esteem, so that they “can reach new heights.”

She remembers vividly working with an at-risk sixth-grade student who appeared to be heading toward a life crime.

With the help of a science teacher, she secured a science kit which the troubled sixth-grade youth used to make a computer-driven space rover, a model of the real space vehicle used in the exploration of Mars, Honnold said.

“I set up a room that was devoted to space exploration, and in the school year, he became self-motivated. I try to help them go beyond what they think they can do.”

She said her reward from teaching comes when the “light bulb” comes on over their heads and students ‘say ‘yea, I get it.”’

“I try to help students develop academic and life skills. When you have helped one student a year, you have done something,” Honnold said. “The idea is to give them hope so they believe that they can become somebody.”

The attitudes of students have changed dramatically since those of 1964, when she started her career, she said. “They are aggressive and self-centered. And they have a lack of respect for each other and adults,” Honnold said.

As way to encourage students to be the best they can be, Honnold teaches them manners, “I teach them to say thank you,” she said.

They are receptive partly because she sets up a supportive environment, one in which she will joke with them but also put her foot down when it is needed.

“Teachers can’t be buddies with students all the time,” she said. “If that practice continues, teachers will have class management problems.”

For teachers to do well today, “they must love children, guide them and help them build skills,” Honnold said.

Honnold believes the best teachers can set goals and expectations, commit to finishing what they have started, have a positive attitude and patience, embrace truth and honesty and have a sense of humor and a continued quest for knowledge.

Teaching is in her blood.

Honnold said she plans to work part-time in her old school district when she returns home to Santa Barbara by the end of this month.

When she can find time to break away from her new responsibilities, she said she plans to follow up on a dream from her youth: Travel to Egypt, collect information about a different culture and pass it onto her students.

Staff writer Lester Chang can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) and


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