Waipahu Shop Teacher’s Passions Driving His Diverse Career

Timothy In (right) with student Florencio Agmata at the SkillsUSA cabinetmaking competition last year. Photo from Timothy In.

Apart from his career as a shop teacher at Waipahu High School, Timothy In had already soared to great heights.

Before becoming a woodworking, building and construction instructor, In was in the Air Force as a weapons system officer with navigator wings, and he flew an F-4 fighter jet.

He enrolled in Air Force ROTC because of the Vietnam War and was commissioned a second lieutenant. He joined the Air Force after college, where his major was fine arts with a focus on environmental design. The college did not yet offer an architecture degree, which was his initial interest. Meanwhile, he still wanted to be an airline pilot.

“I had sought to get experience from the Air Force,” explained In, who lives in Aiea with wife Eve. “Many pilots in the airlines had done that.” But his flying duties were vastly different than flying a commercial plane.

He spent most of his time in the backseat of the F-4. “We served as an extra pair of eyes for other aircraft. We also relieved the pilot in terms of flying.”

Because the backseaters were more in tune with the radar, they were in charge of dropping both conventional and nuclear bombs.

“We flew missions in Taiwan and Okinawa,” he recalled. “If we had proceeded longer, we probably would have taken on a nuclear defense role in Korea.”

In’s graphic arts skills didn’t go to waste while serving his country, as people always were transferring in and out on tour-of-duty assignments.

“I was always making plaques or some kind of signage,” he said. “Having that background in art, I was tapped to do those kind of extra duty things.”

After leaving the Air Force, In focused on teaching, and he has been an instructor at Waipahu High for about 14 years. Along with his many other interests, In was fascinated with woodworking as well. He teaches Building and Construction Technology 1 and 2, which falls into the school’s industrial engineering technology pathway.

“As far as the woodworking, I am somewhat old school in that I believe that traditionally the shop classes used to be where the students come in and make something and then are able to take it home. To me, it’s very important that they gain a sense of accomplishment and learn to pace themselves.”

Out of the classroom, he uses his summers to work on his own artwork – handmade jewelry boxes and heirloom boxes.

“I just got into selling, because I finally have developed somewhat of an inventory.”

Up until this point, he would offer special people, such as friends and family, his hand-crafted treasures as gifts. He also dabbles in computer art, silk screening, airbrushing and abstract painting.

He worked at Robyn Buntin’s gallery before becoming a teacher, and gives credit to Rodney Chang for getting him interested in computer art.

His favorite part? Being able to produce works that he feels worthy of giving to people.