In 1998, Tim Kaihatsu, a professional blues guitarist with a passion for both music and photography, accepted a job teaching History and Economics at Millennium High School. Known to all as Mr. K, he has been a powerful influence in the lives of his students for over fifteen years, challenging students to think independently and critically, express themselves clearly, and appreciate contrary viewpoints. In addition to his influence on students, Mr. K collaborated vigorously with colleagues in shaping Millennium into a community of self-paced, independent learners based on values of respect for others and oneself. Mr. K died on April 7th, and current and former members of the school community are remembering him with profound admiration and gratitude.
After studying History at Cal, Mr. K became an accomplished musician who played with the Robert Cray band and traveled the world playing jazz and blues guitar. Teaching History and Economics at Millennium, Mr. K used current and historical events to help students think about their place in the world and how they might shape their own futures. He drew on his experiences as a musician and world traveler, regaling students with stories of his adventures and encouraging them to pursue their own passions. He thought it was important to impress on students that is wonderful to be good at something you enjoy, but that to be good at anything requires hard work, discipline, practice, and patience. He stressed that these are the skills and qualities that every student will need when they move beyond high school. Most importantly, he wanted students to understand that their lives were theirs to live.
Mr. K has been described as opinionated, cantankerous, blustery, brash and provocative, and all of this was accurate. He was passionate about challenging students to think for themselves, express themselves, and participate in a robust exchange of ideas. He made it feel safe for students to speak their mind and disagree with each other, because he promoted respect and appreciation for all viewpoints. He was thrilled when the quietest, most reserved students found their voice to speak up and join the spirited give-and-take conversations that were typical in his classroom.
Mr. K set an example as a life-long learner by auditing classes in History and Economics at Cal, most recently classes taught by Robert Reich. He stayed active with local musicians, and for many years he coordinated musical acts for the Chasing the Blues fundraiser for Oakland Children’s Hospital.
Mr. K was also an avid photographer who faithfully documented Millennium events. His slideshows have opened every Millennium graduation ceremony since 1998, capturing the expressions and spirit of each graduate.
When news of Mr. K’s death reached the school community, students put butcher paper on the walls and wrote remembrances. Others posted remembrances on Facebook. A former colleague recalled Mr. K’s passion for the wellbeing of his students was equal to his famous passion for music and photography. “Teaching is the greatest gig,” he had said to the colleague.
Tim Kaihatsu embodied the Millennium High School guiding principles of “Respect, Communication, Empowerment, and Community.” He will be greatly missed. To commemorate his commitment to teaching, Tim’s family has established the “Mr. K Memorial Scholarship” in support of students who aspire to become teachers.
If you wish to donate, please make checks payable to “Millennium High School” noting “Mr K” in the memo line. Checks can be sent to the following address:
PUSD – Mr. K
c/o Michael Brady
760 Magnolia Ave.
Piedmont, CA 94611