Wayne Joseph’s Blog

Running with the Big Dog

Keaau P.E. Teacher, Jon Taketa, a Great Role Model

Jon Taketa

“We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit,” Aristotle wrote.

Forming good habits and setting positive examples on a daily basis is what we all aspire to do and for a Keaau High physical education teacher it has become a way of life.

Jon Taketa is one of a handful of teachers for the Cougars that started when the high school first opened in 1999.

“Like anywhere else, our students have their own dreams and aspiration for a successful future,” Taketa said.  “On the flip side, many students must overcome adversities faced daily.”

Taketa serves as a good role model in the world of health and fitness as he consistently demonstrates the benefits of regular physical exercise.

“I had plenty of positive role models growing up in my teachers and coaches,” he said.

Taketa got involved in organized sports when he was in kindergarten when he played both basketball and baseball.

“Both my parents were pretty good athletes during their prime,” he said with a grin.  “So I guess you could say that I was destined to have some interest in sports.”

By third grade Taketa was playing football and by seventh grade he added golf to his sports repertory. 

“I played baseball and football all four years at Waiakea High and basketball in my freshman and sophomore years,” Taketa said.

Graduating from high school in 1984 Taketa had little trouble figuring out what he wanted to major in during college.

“I knew I enjoyed helping out children as I was already working at summer fun and coaching youth baseball,” he said.  “I thought that teaching physical education would be a fun thing to do and it was right up my alley.”

Taketa also credits the many teachers and coaches that served as his role models during those early years.

“I had plenty of positive role models such as Dennis Maedo, Warren Miyasaki, Mildred Kaneshiro, Ken Yamase, Dennis Kagawa, Jimmy Correa, Wil Okabe and Harry Kim, to name a few,” Taketa said.  “Most importantly, my main role models while growing up were my parents.  Until this day, they still try to live active lifestyles.”

Taketa believes that Keaau High has the best facilities and he appreciates the staff in the PE department which makes it fun for him to go to work each day.

Today this veteran P.E. teacher is living in his perfect dream job.

“P.E. teachers have the best jobs in the world,” he said.   “It allows us to workout with the students and stay in shape at the same time.  Students appreciate this and it can also be a motivating factor for them to excel in class.”

Taketa’s satisfaction comes in knowing that his students have applied what they learned in their later lives. 

“It is especially rewarding to see former students living healthy and active lifestyles,” Taketa said.  “While in my classes I tell them that I provide the tools and knowledge and it is up to them to apply it and to live productive and successful lives.”

Staying in shape for Taketa is easy as he will work out with his students during weight training, core workouts and in walking countless miles.

“If not in school I will try to walk at least five times a week for up to 2 or 3 miles each time,” he said.  “My wife and I enjoy taking our daughter in her jogging stroller for long walks in the neighborhood.”

Taketa will also do body weight and dumbbell exercises at home a minimum of twice a week and he will stretch on a daily basis.

“I enjoy mountain biking whenever I can and I will do weekly yard work, which I enjoy,” Taketa added.

Having a young daughter has motivated Taketa to take better care of what he puts into his body.

“Now that I have a daughter, what I eat needs to give me the daily energy requirements to efficiently perform my fatherly duties,” he said.  “It’s become a challenge to maintain my optimal weight since her birth.”

Taketa will eat lots of fruits and vegetables on a daily basis which includes lots of water consumption and extra carbohydrates on the weekends.

“Personally, it gives me peace of mind in knowing that I try my best to practice what I preach,” he said.  “I’ll try my best to be a positive role model for my students and by staying in shape and eating healthy it keeps me one step ahead of the game!”

Taketa also teaches a class called Gifted and Talented Physical Education.

“Students in the GTPE class advocate the importance of physical education and healthy lifestyles through hands on lessons in physical fitness,” Taketa said.  “Cross age tutoring and peer education principles are addressed in class. The primary beneficiaries of this class are the students at Keaau Elementary and our special needs students at our high school.”

Jon Taketa is one of the many great role models in our community that teach and/or coach our youngsters in being the very best they can be.

“As long as I’m teaching PE, I’d like to keep on being a positive role model by staying in shape, and of being in sound mind and body. By participating with my students, whether it’s just walking a mile or lifting weights with them,” Taketa said.

And someday should you happen to see a retired public school teacher trying to do the best that he can be remember to smile, say “woof” and never shy away from “Running with the Big Dog.”

Email the Big Dog at waiakeabigdog@aol.com.

August 1, 2011 Posted by | Profiles | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Andy Levin still giving back to the Big Island

Hilo's Andy Levin

I’m always impressed with the numerous service and volunteers organizations that continue to give to our community.

   The Lions Club, the Elks, Key Club, Leo, the list goes on and on, hardworking people that find time to give service to those around us.

   So naturally, when I find someone who is healthy and fit and who is a role model of giving service to our community it makes perfect sense to feature them in one of my columns.

   Andy Levin has lived in Hawaii since 1969 and ever since then he has been helping others within our community.

  Levin was born and raised in New York City where he grew up playing baseball and football in high school.  “I played lightweight football in college,” Levin said.  “It was full contact football, but you had to weigh less than 154 pounds.”

  In baseball Levin’s high school team won the New York City Championships and the young Levin had dreams of playing center field for the Yankees.  “I broke my collarbone running into a wall chasing a fly ball and that ended that dream,” he said.

  Following high school Levin went onto college where he got his law degree and a chance to come to Hawaii.  “I knew I wanted to work in Legal Aid,” he said.  “I applied for a national fellowship, got it, and asked to be sent to Hawaii.”

   Levin came to our beautiful state more than 40 years ago with a one-year contract and never left.  While in Hilo he played a little baseball for Jimmy Correa’s Eagles, “I played briefly and badly,” he said.

   As most of you know Levin went on to politics and served two years on the County Council, eight years in the State House, 12 years in the State Senate, and another eight years as Executive Director to Mayor Harry Kim.

   Not content to work only one full time job, in those early years, Levin worked part time loading bags for Aloha Airlines while he worked full time for Legal Aid. “It was a great job (Aloha Airlines) and I only gave it up when I got elected to the Council and did not have enough time to do three jobs,” Levin said.   

   At another point in his life Levin was a part-time assistant professor at the University of Hawaii-Hilo and the community college.

   It wasn’t until 1980 that Levin discovered multi benefits of running.  “I started running because of Connie Chun, who was famous as the matriarch of the Hunky Bunch,” Levin said.  “Connie and I were elected to the House in the same year and she gave me the Jack Scaff book which had a title something like ‘Your first Marathon’.”

   Dr. Jack Scaff helped start the Honolulu Marathon in 1973 and in 1974 began the Honolulu Marathon Clinic.  Scaff is considered a pioneer in the field of marathon running and in 2003 he was inducted into the Hawaii Sports Hall of Fame.

   Chun and her family ran multiple Honolulu Marathons and several of her children went on to become physicians and continue to run today.  Her daughter June won the first Honolulu Marathon while attending Roosevelt High School at age 14.

   So naturally Levin was initially lured into running by the best and most influential runners of the day.

   “Motivation was the challenge for me in trying to do my first marathon (26.2-miles),” Levin said.  “The question was could I do it?”

   During this same period Levin had also taken up tennis and was frustrated each time he was rained out.  “Running could be any time of day in any weather,” Levin said. 

   Levin went on to complete 10 marathons in Honolulu, Hilo, Kona and Maui and his best time is an amazing 2 hours, 48 minutes and 56 seconds.

   Thirty years later Levin can still be found jogging along the roadways of East Hawaii.  “I continue now because I’m hooked,” he said.  “I want to stay in shape and I believe that running is good for both my mental and physical health.”

   At age 63 Levin rotates his days of running with pushups and sits ups, going out for a run three to four times per week.  With the cool mornings in Volcano Levin will reserve his runs for the afternoons.

   “I’ve never liked running in the morning and rarely go out in the rain unless I’ve missed several days in a row,” he said.  “On nice afternoons, running in Volcano is a pleasure, and often I’ll run in Hilo if I’m in town for something else.

  Today Andy Levin considers himself retired, but continues his volunteer service to the community as he serves on several boards.  “I sit on the State Board of Legal aid Society; a non-profit involved in workforce development (HIWEDO); and the Hawaii Island Healthcare Alliance,” he said.

   Levin is also active as a Red Cross volunteer where he has gone to Louisiana for Hurricane Ike and to American Samoa for last year’s tsunami/earthquake.

  Andy Levin serves as a great role model in the amount of service he gives to our community and as a person that continues to make time to stay healthy and fit through regular physical exercise.

July 5, 2010 Posted by | Profiles | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments