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Coming Back Full Circle

Grass roots, community, and family. That’s how former student and current instructor Janina “Nina” Martin describes Honolulu Community College.

At 48 years old and the peak of her career, Martin has come full circle back to Honolulu CC, teaching in the place where she first received her own instruction in the field that has fascinated her for a long time: the education of young children.

Born and raised on O’ahu, she now lives on the slopes of Punchbowl with her husband of 22 years. Tied to the community through her work and her children, she embraces her training in early childhood education and social work as more than education but a life philosophy.

Her passion for early childhood education started when she was just 10 years old and volunteering at a preschool. She later became a substitute teacher, an aide, which eventually led to an assistant teacher position, and then to full-time teaching. Now, she is an instructor at the college where she got her start.

To reach that point, she spent 11 long years investing in her education and furthering her interest in ECE. She started her college education at Kapi‘olani Community College, then transferred to Honolulu CC where she earned a certificate in early childhood. She then set off to UH Mānoa to complete her bachelor’s degree in liberal arts.

Her next stop was Hawai’i Pacific University, where she earned a master of social work and became a family supervisor at Hawaii’s Institute for Human Services, working in support groups at Kokua Kalihi Valley.

After years of education, research, and development, Martin returned to Honolulu CC, where it all began, as a faculty member in the school’s Early Childhood Education department, embracing her role as an instructor of the coursework she herself experienced. She helps her students learn through a developmentally appropriate approach to which she adds her social work training to enhance her students’ understanding.

“The Early Childhood Department prepared me for the real world of teaching,” she said. “The professors were real and focused and emphasized the importance of building relationships, while still managing to challenge their students, colleagues, and peers. There was an overall sense of community and commitment.”

It was the sense of community at the school that brought her back. “That’s something I’m passionate about,” she said.  “The heart of the community college is the commitment of the faculty and administration to the larger community.”

Working in the community for many years in preschool programs, homecare and policy, Martin has developed a belief that, “Knowledge is not about pouring into, it’s about sharing.” Describing Honolulu Community College as connected, inspiring, and embracing. Martin says being there is her dream job.

Her role model and mentor at Honolulu CC was Sherry Nolte, an early childhood professor who “held students to a higher standard and pushed them to be better.”

Martin tries to instill this standard in her own students.

“Don’t be afraid to fail and make mistakes,” she said.  “Go out of your comfort zone. Work for social justice and social equity. Find support systems that work for you, and most importantly find your passion.”

Natalie Muzzini and Allison Sharp were students in the Honolulu CC Journalism 205 News Writing Class in Spring 2017.

University of Hawai‘i Alumni