ʻIolani physical education teacher Delbert Tengan can be found constantly on the move through campus, holding a distinctive stride with his signature pair of a sunglasses on and a folder tucked at his side. Aside from being a P.E. teacher, Tengan also coaches the ‘Iolani Varsity Football team’s defensive unit as its defensive coordinator. With so much dedication to high school athletics, Tengan’s life story reflects a love for physical activity like no other man.
“Growing up, I was always involved with sports, whether it was football or basketball,” he said. “Luckily, I was fortunate enough to get a job under the great Cal Lee at Saint Louis High School as a [defensive assistant].” Eventually replacing Lee after his departure from St. Louis to work at the University of Hawaiʻi, Tengan stepped into a difficult position. “It was enormous shoes to fill.You can never truly be Coach Lee, but you try to emulate him in the way he carries himself while also remaining true to your own philosophy. I compare it to a chef; you can’t make a dish better than its creator did, but you try to put your own personal touch to it.”
After leaving Saint Louis to assume his current position, Tengan now assists a legend in his own right: Raider Head Coach Wendell Look.
“One of the biggest things we preach is toughness,” Tengan mused when picturing a group of players who fight with a great deal of heart to make up for what they lack in size or strength. A lecture on the proper defensive stance and the lowering of the hips to make a tackle provides insight into his coaching. Tengan’s style can best be described as rooted in effort and fundamentals, something he picked up under the tutelage of two of the State’s seminal football minds.
When asked about the current Raider team, Tengan points to two positive building blocks: teamwork and speed.
“The team plays with a great bond. They don’t want to let the man next to them down,” he said. “Also, to compensate for our lack of size, we have great team speed.” One needn’t look further than the ILH standings to see that there is something special brewing with this year’s team.
With years of coaching under his belt, Tengan shows a commitment to the sport that few coaches can top. Perhaps the only thing that can rival Tengan’s love of football is his love of teaching.
“Oh, wow, that’s gotta be my greatest joy. As a teacher and coach, you try to impart as much wisdom as you can onto these kids,” said Tengan. “They may not always get it the first time, but seeing them come back as adults is one of the most gratifying things for me.”
Spoken like a true teacher, Tengan continues to roam ʻIolani’s halls in search of good fundamentals, and above all, effort in and out of the classroom.