After spending over four decades as a part of the Department of Education, head registrar Jeffrey Lum chose to retire in December 2017. Starting in 1974 as a social studies teacher and JV basketball coach at Waianae High School, Lum proved to be a lifelong educator. In 1989 he decided to go back to school to become a counselor, getting hired at MHS in 1990. He eventually became a registrar in 2003, staying until his retirement, 43 years after he began.
“I’m blessed to have been able to do something; to be able to wake up every morning looking forward to being at work, closing my eyes every night being at peace with what I did. I think that work for me became, as the years went by, more and more enjoyable. So that’s why it was really hard to finally say, ‘You know what though, it’s time. It’s time to move on,’” said Lum.
Lum’s joy for teaching was realized in college; an enthusiasm he continued to carry with him across the years and throughout his various positions. “Anything he does, any decision he makes, he’s very passionate about it. He thoroughly thinks things through from all angles and sometimes it’s not a black or white thought or decision. But he does really think things through because he’s so passionate about making things right for the students,” said close colleague and current head registrar Jennifer Yoshizawa.
By exploring different fields within education, Lum maintained interest in his job and used the knowledge he gained to better handle problems. “Of all the roles I’ve had: being a teacher, a coach, a counselor and a registrar, I think all of them have given me so much in terms of my life experiences and my professional development. I think each successive role helped to enhance my abilities and my understanding to, I think, hopefully be a little better educator each year that I moved on and in different roles,” said Lum.
Since he was first attracted to the idea of helping people, Lum demonstrated care and commitment towards his students and colleagues alike. “When he was given the opportunity to have a second registrar he had thought of me to be his partner,” said Yoshizawa. “For that I’m going to be forever grateful because I do feel like he saw something in me that I didn’t even realize at the time. He saw that I would be a good fit for this job and he’s right. I mean at the time I didn’t even realize what a registrar’s job really entailed, but after I was selected to become the second registrar and I got into this job, he was absolutely correct. This job fits me perfectly and I enjoy it.”
Over the years, Lum stuck to his values, using them as a guideline for the effort he has put into his job. “(This job has) given me so much more than I could ever give back to the system and you try to go about doing what you’re doing, trying to give more than you take. I think that’s a really important thing because it should be what can I do to make this school, make this job, make this place better; as opposed to thinking, ‘Okay, what can I get from this job,’” said Lum.
Lum’s wish to give back is evident in the lasting impression he leaves behind. “He’s really impacted this school I think much more than people even realize. A lot of the policies and procedures that we follow, just as the culture of our school, he actually thought of and implemented. For example, our credit time frames. I mean the students probably don’t even realize, a lot of teachers don’t even realize, that we do have guidelines that a student needs to be in a class for so long in order to be eligible to earn or receive a grade or credit. If they transfer in and it’s too late in the year then we don’t stick them in and expect the teacher to grade and give credit and we have guidelines for that. So that’s just to help keep our school accountable and our diploma worthy of something. But that’s just one example of how he’s impacted this school that we just live day to day with that in our mind, not knowing where it came from, and it came from him,” said Yoshizawa.
The time Lum has spent as an educator can also be seen in his personality, as it has been a large part of his life. “I think I’ve learned from so many people along the way; so many colleagues, so many students, so many experiences of what it is to be, I think, a more caring person, a more understanding person, and hopefully a more patient person. I think my job has given me—and the experiences in education has given me—so much more than I gave. Simply because I think who I am, or who I identify myself as being, as an educator, certainly all those experiences helped to enrich me where I feel very comfortable with who I am,” said Lum.
In turn, Lum influenced the people around him, pushing them to be better at their jobs and as people. “He really empowered me to learn and take on every challenge that came. Of course I always ran things by him because he has years of knowledge more than I do, but he really did allow me to step up and make decisions, especially in the last year or two, to make the tough decisions and to help move the school in the direction that
the principal wants,”
With Yoshizawa taking over the position as head registrar, Lum, now in retirement, plans to spend time with his wife and enjoy his free time; including going to the beach, taking walks, hiking and traveling.