Generations of Kaneohe ‘ohana devote themselves to educating Hawaii keiki
Being an educator runs in Agnes Brown’s genes. Her grandmother was a music teacher at Kapaa Elementary for 30 years. Her mother, Mandy Thronas-Brown, was the principal at St. Ann’s before it closed in 2021 and now serves as Associate Superintendent with Hawaii Catholic Schools. And most of her aunties and cousins are also educators. It’s only fitting then that the Elementary Education major would follow the same trajectory.
“Growing up with my mom as a teacher at St. Ann’s, I was always inspired by how she engaged her students,” says Brown ’23. “I knew that education was always a passion of mine, and I knew that I loved working with kids, especially younger kids.”
However, like many events that were paused—or canceled—due to COVID-19 restrictions, Brown’s observation in the classroom was also sidelined, forcing the school to turn to Teaching Channel videos as a way to supplement students’ field experience.
“COVID impacted all of the education programs because students were not allowed in schools,” says Katrina Roseler, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Education and Director of Teacher Education Programs. However, she points out that as restrictions eased after two years, Agnes and her peers did get the chance to experience working with students at Palolo Elementary School during after-school tutoring.
Starting in 2023, Brown will lead her own classroom at Sacred Hearts Academy, her alma mater. “I’m a little nervous, but I’m going to make it fun for the kids,” says Brown, with a smile. “Education was not always fun for me. It was definitely more of a chore than anything to be excited about.”
As a lifelong learner, Brown plans to take cues from some of her previous teachers and professors, who, she says, made concepts interesting and easier to understand. But there will be challenges, just like with any profession. The Kaneohe native accepts that she will encounter tough days, from planning engaging lessons to responding to classroom distractions.
“My advice, stay calm,” says her mom, Thronas-Brown, who has been in the education field for 28 years. “The fears I think she is experiencing are being able to plan lessons accordingly and being responsible for the education of her students in her classroom, which is always a concern of all new teachers.”
Thronas-Brown also offers another sage nugget: strive to be the best teacher you can possibly be and treat each child in your classroom with compassion while ensuring you meet all teaching expectations.
“Trust yourself and give yourself time to develop your style of teaching,” Thronas-Brown advises. “Never be afraid to ask for help. No teacher is given a ‘playbook’ for each child in their classroom stating the best way to educate that individual.”
Kindhearted, curious, empathetic and leadership have defined Brown since she was a child.
“I was still in elementary school when I knew that I wanted to become a teacher,” Brown acknowledges. “I know I want to become a teacher that likes to help kids who don’t get it right away—like me when I was in school. And I want to provide the same nurturing environment that some of my former teachers created.”
Brown’s mentors have also taught her the value of an education, especially a Catholic one. And while friends have questioned her choice of career, based on pay grade—in Hawaii, an elementary teacher’s entry-level salary ranges between $45,593 and $51,209, according to Hawaii State Teachers Association’s 2022-2023 salary schedule—she would rather accept a lower income doing what she likes best than a higher one that would blunt her passion for teaching.
“We are truly blessed with a self-driven, dedicated, loyal, compassionate, and loving child who knows God and seeks to be the best version of herself each day,” Thronas-Brown says. “We are extremely proud of our daughter Agnes, and we wish her nothing but the best in her life and future career.”