Jul 7, 2009

Retrospectives: "The Knowlton Years"


Living it up with the Knowltons at Hard Rock Cafe Saipan, New Years Eve 2000/New Years Day 2001. Our group is seated (except for Aaron). L to R: Aaron Knowlton, Joyce Knowlton, Me, Babs, Tin Tin, Kathy "K-Stair" Stair. Good people, and great friends all.

These days, if you ask a student at the Saipan SDA School what they know about the Knowltons, you'll most likely get a blank look. Most of the kids that were here in their day either are already adults in college or the working-world or they were too young to have more than a vague impression of them.

But we still remember them, fondly and with a warm smile. We know that long before Miss Rhonda and Miss Jaimie, long before Miss Judith, long before Mr. Graves, Miss Missy, and the other Rock Stars, long before all of them, there was Aaron and Joyce Knowlton, the original charismatic and cool teachers.

Aaron and Joyce, newlyweds and new teachers with freshly earned education degrees came to Saipan in the fall of 2000. They stayed for two years before returning to the U.S. mainland, but in that short time, they made a remarkable impact on the Saipan Seventh-day Adventist School, an impact that is still felt today, even if the kids no longer realize the source. The Knowltons were some of the nicest people we'd ever met. They seemed to like everyone and in turn everyone liked them back. They were enthusiastic and energetic teachers. They were skillful and creative in classroom. Learning from them was always an adventure. They also opened their hearts and their home to the kids, even spending time with them on the weekends. In additon to all that, they had a certain something about them--something they seemed humbly unaware of, which actually made it more potent--a kind of star power, if you will. I guess I would simply call it charisma. They had an ability to draw the kids, like few teachers I've seen before or since.

Yet, even teachers as beautiful, in every sense of the word, as these have faded into the pages of SDA School history, even as we some day will. And yet their influence remains.

It remains in REAL Christian Theater. It was Aaron Knowlton and I along with the irrepressible Kathy Stair, who started REAL back in the fall of 2000. The three of us developed the idea for a traveling drama ministry, a club for our students to get out into the community and share the love of God through drama. Together, we plotted our first REAL tour schedule and our first series of skits. We performed our first full length play, Before Supper, and took our first off-island tour to Guam. And when Kathy left at the end of the school year, Aaron and I carried on through REAL's second year which included our joint production with Mount Carmel School, Point of Impact, and our tour to Yap and Palau.

First REAL Christian Theater Tour to Palau, May 2002. This photo was actually taken during the first leg of our tour, to Yap. Palau was the second leg, and we wrapped up with a final leg in Guam. Can't imagine doing such a grueling tour schedule today! Pictured is, L to R, Aaron Knowlton (kneeling), Keisha Paez, Aya Sato, Me, Holly Delacruz, Frances Schwarz, Myla Capilitan, Jimmy Arriola, Isa Arriola, Evan Hewitt, Nicole Rios, Corey Hewitt, Lynx Yamada, and Andrew Gabaldon. (Thanks to Myla G for the photo. I ripped it from her Facebook).

It remains in TGIS (Thank God It's Sabbath), a Friday night tradition started during the Knowlton's first year in Saipan. We and the Knowltons would open our home to the students every other Friday night, to celebrate the Sabbath. We'd have a short worship thought, lots of delicious food, Christian music, and plenty of time for just hanging out. TGIS continues to this day, and on our last TGIS in Saipan on the last day of school, with the house jam-packed with students, it felt just like those old days with the Knowltons.

It remains in the great teaching ideas that I adopted and have passed on to other teachers. Ideas like Aaron's Create-A-State project for Geography class, which I used for years after the Knowltons left, with great success.

It remains in those old basketball trophies still glistening in the trophy case, reminders of the back to back championships our boys basketball team won under Aaron's coaching. In the years since, when we've had teams of youngsters still growing their skills, when we've had teams hovering on the edge of greatness, but perhaps intimdated by the size of the some of the larger schools in our league, I've pointed to those trophies, and reminded them of what happened then, and what is still possible now.

But most of all it remains in the lives of the young adults who were once their "kids": Keisha, Tito, and Wylie Paez, Aya Sato, Holly Delacruz, Ara Tasmajian, Jimmy and Isa Arriola, Myla Grace Capilitan, Danny and Frances Schwarz, and so many others. Todays students may not know the Knowltons, but these kids will never forget them.

The Knowlton Years were good ones, and not just because of Aaron and Joyce. There was the aforementioned Kathy Stair (also known as K-Stair and Typhoon Kitty--for her manic enthusiasm for typhoon preparation whenever a typhoon was even remotely close by). There was Sheri Rodman, or laid-back, reggae-loving pre-school director. There was our principal, Evan Hendrix who presided over the school with avuncular good humor and passionate heart for mission service. There was of Tin Tin Win, small of stature, but steadfast and devoted. She'd be with our school for many years to come.

Babs and I with Tin Tin Win, News Years Eve/Day, 2000/2001.

Those were bright days--we worked hard, and we had fun doing it. It was during this time, under Evan's leadership, that the Managaha Campout expanded from an 8th grade retreat to it's present schoolwide Outdoor School format. Those first campouts were held on parts of Managaha that no longer exist--the old pavilion where we had our staff meetings, the ground where the Knowltons and we pitched our tents, have all since washed out to sea.

It was during the Knowlton Years that Aaron and I made our first full-length feature film, Saul and David, a two hour epic cobbled together with Aaron's camcorder, a boom box, and the students in our Bible classes. We got the movie-making bug, and the following year, we, along with our former student Jimmy Arriola and Mt. Carmel School counterpart Galvin Deleon Guerrero, wrote the original script for Journeys, a Christian-themed dramatic television show. Journeys would open the door for my continued involvement with independent television and film projects on Saipan.

Everyone who was a part of the Knowlton Years has now moved on. Kathy is married and living in Georgia (I think). Tin Tin is New York, Sheri in Washington, Evan somewhere between South Korea and California, at least that's what I recall from the last time we chatted on Facebook. Babs and I were the last from that era to leave, and we're now here in Ohio getting ready to start the next chapter. As for Aaron and Joyce themselves? They're in southern California, parents now, of two beautiful children. They're still teaching, and my guess is they're still shining. For some lucky kids right now is the Knowlton Years, a time they'll never forget.

When you teach, you have the privelege of representing an era to the students in your charge. They will remember their time with you as the (Insert Name Here) Years. May they remember our years as well as we remember The Knowlton Years.
They left their mark in more ways than one. . .

Look carefully (enlarge the photo by clicking on it if you need to) and you'll see the words "J & A Knowlton 2000" engraved in the concrete. Aaron and Joyce wrote this when the new sidewalk that linked our two apartments together was poured. I took this photo and the others following, the day before we left Saipan, some nine years later.

We made ours as well, Look for "S & B Maycock". The little symbol on the end is a diamond, a now-somewhat-embarrassing symbol of our then-dreams.

K-Stair, as always, stands out bright and clear even after close to decade. Way to go Kathy!

1 comment:

Mai said...

Wow, that was inspiring and even brought tears to my eyes! I'm super nervous to start teaching again since I've been out of the regular classroom for over a year now.....but I sure hope I'll be able to leave as great of an impression on my kids as you and the Knowltons left on all of yours!