RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
The Dunns are a family of educators. From left are Randell Dunn, Waipahu Intermediate principal; Maureen Dunn-Anzai, Kaahumanu Elementary vice principal; Harriet Dunn, retired teacher; Bassil Dunn, also retired; and Hugh Dunn, UH College of Education.
Family of learning
School is a way of life for the Dunn family of Aina Haina.
"People are always saying, 'Are you guys ever going to stop going to school?'" Hugh Dunn said with a laugh.
That's not likely.
His parents, Bassil and Harriet Dunn, met as fledgling teachers and spent their careers together teaching at Kalakaua Middle School in Kalihi. Their three children -- Randell, Hugh and Maureen -- followed their path as public school teachers, then took it a step further. All three became principals.
"My parents were always talking about their students, and it was kind of contagious, the passion and love they had for their jobs," said Hugh Dunn, who was principal at Kalihi Waena Elementary before moving over to the University of Hawaii's College of Education.
Randell Dunn is the principal of Waipahu Intermediate School. Maureen Dunn-Anzai is vice principal of Kaahumanu Elementary. Even Randell's wife, Laureen, is a principal -- at Pearlridge Elementary. And Hugh's wife, Joanna Dunn, is a state resource teacher.
It can make for one-track banter at family get-togethers.
"We're always talking shop," Hugh Dunn said. "We all have our own opinions and it makes for a very stimulating conversation. We wrestle with some of the same issues. It's good because we get to bounce ideas off each other."
As adults, the Dunn children didn't just follow their parents' footsteps. They actually caught up with them on campus.
"A few students had all three of us," said Randell Dunn, who came to Kalakaua as a special education teacher while his parents were still there. Students would go to Harriet Dunn for science and Bassil Dunn for social studies. If they needed an extra push, they might wind up in Randell's "special motivation" class.
The senior Dunns retired before Hugh joined the staff as a sixth-grade teacher, but they were called back as long-term substitutes, so at one point there were four Dunns at Kalakaua.
The campus was familiar territory for the Dunn "boys." "Even though we didn't go to school in Kalihi, we'd go there to play basketball, and grew up with the kids in Kalihi," Randell Dunn said. "We made friends for life. The students would help us play ukulele. We had close ties with the teachers too."
That helped shape their careers. The contrast in resources available in East Honolulu versus Kalihi inspired the Dunns to work with children in need.
"A lot of them just need opportunities," said Randell Dunn. He encourages students at his school to get involved in everything from junior engineering and robotics to the Olelo media center and sports.
"The rigor, the things that the kids do, is amazing," he said. "It's the most rewarding profession I've ever been in. I've worked in business, I worked at the airline, I worked in retail. There is so much you can do in education. You really are making an impact."
Maureen Dunn-Anzai followed her brother into special education and also coached track. At McKinley, the track team didn't have a jump pit, so she organized the athletes to dig their own. "It brings the whole team together and it builds lasting memories and pride," said Dunn-Anzai, who still holds the state triple jump record.
At UH, Hugh Dunn runs Pihana Na Mamo, a program funded through the Native Hawaiian Education Act that helps students in high-poverty schools. A report on the program won an award from the American Educational Research Association last month.
Bassil Dunn encouraged his children to take on leadership roles. "We felt that you can move things when you can make the decisions," he said. "Sometimes in the classroom, you're limited as to what you can do."
The Dunns take their professions seriously. Randell, Hugh and Randell's wife Laureen are all pursuing Ph.D.'s in educational administration. Maureen has two master's degrees.
Her husband, Jason Anzai, is the only adult in the family who isn't an educator -- and he may be due for a career change. He is the maintenance controller for Aloha Airlines, which abruptly shut down passenger service on March 31, although cargo operations continue.
Bassil and Harriet's four grandchildren are also keeping their options open.
"They want to be a vet, a teacher, a fireman," Hugh Dunn said. "They run the gamut." One good sign: "They love school."