LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Dale Olive

Position: Physics Teacher
School: Waiakea High School
School District: Hawaii Department of Education
City, State: Hilo, HI

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Dale Olive was nominated by two anonymous students. The following profile contains text from each nomination.

“When I think of the word ‘influential,’ none come to mind sooner than my physics teacher, Mr. Olive,” said a student. “His outreach and influence has touched the hearts of everyone he has met, and the lessons he teaches stay with students throughout their lives. Mr. Olive is a big time hero from our small town.”

Mr. Olive is a staple to the STEM community on the Big Island of Hawaii. In addition to his work as an engaging high school physics teacher, he has spent the past decade working to further STEM and robotics education for students of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds. He is well known throughout the island for his work and is beloved by all his current and former students. 

Mr. Olive carries an unrelenting love for what he does. His students—past and present—know him for having a passion for science that decades of teaching has only fueled. His goal in teaching is to make science fun for everyone, and he accomplishes this even with the most difficult students. During labs and lessons, his love for teaching and science is felt by everyone. His lectures are frequently peppered with entertaining stories from his life that are related to the lesson and keep students intrigued. He also incorporates various physics-related competitions, such as bottle rockets or inertia balance precision. These competitions challenge students to conduct additional research on physics concepts, and to apply these concepts.

Physics is a difficult subject for many students, and some have trouble comprehending the math application aspect. Mr. Olive takes time to make sure every student understands the equations associated with the lesson. If a student comes in during recess or lunch, he takes time to sit with them and review the notes from that day’s lecture.  He encourages struggling students to persevere and have fun during the process.

Mr. Olive has not only changed the lives of students at Waiakea, but he has also has made a difference within the state of Hawaii and around the world. His involvement in Waiakea’s extracurriculars and in classrooms around the state does not go unnoticed. Mr. Olive founded the Waiakea High School Robotics team and has advised it for its entire existence. He finds competitions for the team to participate in, from the microrobotics competition held in Nagoya, Japan to a FIRST robotics regional in Sacramento. Through the robotics team, he has inspired countless students to pursue futures in science and engineering. All of his robotics team members have succeeded in college and beyond. He continues to influence the community’s youth in events such as Girls’ Engineering Day, which he created to inspire more girls to pursue engineering.

Mr. Olive also coordinates a trip for Waiakea High students to go to Japan for the annual Japan Super Science Fair, an international convention that fosters learning and cultural exchange between high school students from different countries. At this convention, he inspires other students to have fun in science, similar to the way he teaches in the classroom. His intent to help others and spread learning has positively influenced countless students through these services.

Many younger students in the community have been exposed to robotics because of Mr. Olive’s efforts. He brought many elementary students into STEM through a week-long summer robotics camp run by the Waiakea robotics team. He also ran NexTech day camps, which are free STEM days for elementary school students and their parents. Finally, he petitioned for funding for many of his STEM camps and projects from various organizations and continues to advocate for his students. 

Mr. Olive also encourages his students outside of the classroom. He cultivates personal relationships with his students, caring for their well-being and checking in with them when they appear overly depressed or stressed. Students come to him for advice or to talk to an adult who genuinely wants them to succeed. Many alumni return to Waiakea High School to visit him and to thank him for the positive impact that he has had on their lives. 

“Personally, Mr. Olive has influenced and supported me in countless ways,” said a student. “He goes beyond the traditional role of ‘teacher’ to provide for his students and make their high school experience as enjoyable as possible. There were days I sat in the classroom before school starts, spacing out and in a bad mood, only to be cheered up by his conversation. His experience teaching and working with students makes him familiar with making the best of the unique qualities of each individual student. He truly brings out the best in all of us.”