Augie Tulba

Former student of Millie Murakami

Dole Middle School

When Honolulu City Council Member Augie Tulba was flunking eighth grade English at Dole Middle School, guidance teacher Mrs. Millie Murakami told him he could either put his talents to work on a stage or face the wrath of his father.

A three-decade-long stand-up comedy career later, Tulba continues to credit Mrs. Murakami for turning his life around.

“She was the first teacher who, when I looked at her, I knew she cared about me,” Tulba said, tears welling up in his eyes. “She said ‘You’re failing English – I think you’re a special person and I really care about what your future’s going to look like.’ And when she said that to me, it really resonated with me.”

Noting that he both loved to talk and to make people laugh, Mrs. Murakami suggested that he channel those talents into something useful. She stayed with him after school for three weeks to help him sharpen his performance.

“She taught me how to prepare, how to get focused,” said Tulba.

It still wasn’t easy. Tulba battled with dyslexia. Meanwhile, the other contestants on stage with him gave him “side eye” while his buddies jeering from the back of the auditorium told him to stop fooling around and get off the stage.

But that only motivated him to prove everyone wrong and Tulba’s performance of Rap Replinger’s classic “Room Service” routine won him the top trophy in the humorous interpretation category of the speech contest.

One of five boys growing up in Kamehameha IV public housing in a family where both parents worked, Tulba said his life could very easily have gone much differently.

“I love my parents to death but I saw them struggling,” Tulba said. “We had to really think outside the box, my brothers and I.” One brother ended up in prison and another was an early victim of the ice epidemic.

But for Tulba, Mrs. Murakami’s push to enter that speech contest changed his life forever.

“When you step out of that box and you challenge yourself to do something that’s so out of the ordinary, people support you and they want to see you do well. And that challenges other people to do the same — ‘if he can do ’em, I can do ’em.’ Mrs. Murakami played a big role in giving me confidence so that I didn’t let the obstacles challenge me.”

#MyAwesomeTeacher

SUBMIT YOUR STORY

Share your story with us! Our teachers are a great source of encouragement, inspiration and positive life transformations. Many of us have had a teacher who has made a major impact on our lives or helped us to simply do better.

HEA wants to showcase testimonials about amazing teachers to highlight the importance of our local educators. These stories will be featured throughout our website, newsletter and social media in 2021 as part of HEA’s 100th anniversary celebration.

SUBMIT YOUR STORY

More Teacher Stories

Ben Cayetano

Ben Cayetano

We could tell Mr. Higa was devoted to his work. His character just came through and that’s why the students really liked him. He had the ability to inspire his students to do their best.

Former student of Howard Higa

Kalakaua Intermediate School

Holden Suzuki

Holden Suzuki

I know for a fact that teachers are some of the hardest-working people on the planet and they really make an effort to connect with you.

8th Grade Student

Maui Waena Intermediate School

JoAnn Oshiro

JoAnn Oshiro

I just enjoy making connection with students. I think that was the same with Mr. Ginoza and maybe he modeled that for me in my career.

Former student of Mr. Edwin Ginoza

Maui High School