Physics 152: mid-semester exchange of instructors

Physics and Astronomy instructor transfers course to department chair

Staff Writer Breandain Clarke
Graphic Designer Leah Wyzykowski

Graphic design

On Feb. 7, 2019, there was a bit of a shake-up in the University of Hawai`i at Hilo Physics and Astronomy Department when instructor Dr. Catherine Ishida declared that she was unable to continue teaching Physics 152 for the spring semester. Handing off the course outline and materials made for the class to the chair of the department, Dr. Marianne Takamiya, she bid her farewell to the students, and for the remainder of the semester, Ishida will be teaching Astronomy 110L, a general lab, as well as Physics 272. When attempting to reach out to Dr. Ishida, I was unable to discuss with her the situation.

One of the students of the class, who wanted to remain anonymous, claimed that Ishida seemed frustrated the day she told the entire class that she was no longer going to teach the course. “There seemed to be a barrier between her and the entire class. We knew that she tried her best; that much was notable for the first month that she taught the class,” the student said, commenting on how Dr. Ishida acted during that first month and even up until the last day of class. “She’s a very kind professor. She was very accomodating and really wanted all of us to succeed. She was still like that on her last day, only you could tell the stress was too much for her. She said that teaching the class was not what she was expecting it to be.”

When asked if she needed this class to graduate on time, the student responded that she, as well as many other seniors graduating this year, “absolutely” needed the course in order to complete their degree.

“We don’t have the luxury to drop the class and take it later, so we are just stuck with whatever they can do for the remainder of the semester,” the student continued. “When Takamiya came into the class, she told us all that the Physics and Astronomy Department was going to take care of us.” The student also claimed that Ishida told them that although she wasn’t going to be teaching the class any longer, she would be there to assist them to her best capabilities if anyone needed help.

As the current instructor of the course, Takamiya was able to shed some light on the situation. She said that the issue about designating which faculty member would teach what course started back in October of last year after the department began accepting and conducting interviews to replace the now-retired Dr. John Hamilton. “They decided to postpone the hiring until December, a last-minute decision that I feel we shouldn’t continue to do in the future,” said Takamiya.

But when Ishida decided to step back from teaching the course, the class was already in progression, and Takamiya claimed that Ishida was helpful in transferring it over to her. “When giving me all of the course material, Ishida was with me for many hours of hard work to bring me up to date. She was extremely conscientious with showing and explaining her teaching style and course outline.”

Ultimately, Takamiya said that the department, as well as the students, are lucky that Ishida volunteered to teach the course at all. “If she didn’t initially step up to instruct, the course would not have happened this semester,” continued Takamiya. “Either way, even with her no longer able to instruct, she saved the class and the students that need this class, especially the ones that are graduating this semester.”