Math teacher gives credit to students
“Here at EXPOSED, we are a group of artists who believe that every day holds beauty. Every moment should be cherished. Every talent should be EXPOSED,” says Ammon Fepuleai, a 30-year-old from Pago Pago, and a Math teacher at Samoana High School. He is talking about a highly successful social site he developed with the help of his SHS students.
“As much as I would love to take all the credit, but no if it wasn’t for my students I would not have Exposed Photography,” Ammon told Samoa News.
Fepuleai a graduate of the University of Wyoming has been teaching Mathematics for about 7 years at Samoana High School. Fepuleai enjoys teaching to help his students reach their potential and goals in life — especially students with artistic talents. Art has always played a big part in his life.
But, as with many other Samoan parents, Fepulea’i’s parents encouraged him to focus on Mathematics as a career — more than the Arts — it pays the bills.
Fepulea’i agreed, believing the Arts would not get him far in life — Exposed Photography has proved him wrong, inspiring him to enhance his students’ lives, as they do his.
Fepulea’i still teaches at Samoana High School, but during his spare time exposes his work with other talented students and artists on social media. He encourages students to try new things and if you love it to keep doing it.
Explaining how the idea of “Exposed” evolved, Fepulea’i says each year while teaching at Samoana High School, he would always find talented, artistic students and would work closely with them to encourage, motivate and inspire one another. He said some of these students had talents and interest in photography, creative media, singing, dancing, sculpturing, modeling etc.
Fepulea’i said, “Every year students would either inspire me or I would inspire them. We have many talented students who I enjoy working with and I have learned so much from.”
In 2010, Fepuleai worked closely with some of the students in creating the SHS yearbook. One of his students, Gabby Fuaiaso, had a strong interest in photography, which Fepulea’i took notice of, and started to combine their knowledge to make that year’s yearbook highly successful.
Gabby, who now owns her own photography business told Samoa News, “I have learned a lot from Ammon, he really did inspire me to do a lot.”
Exposed Photography started in 2015 when Ammon and a few of his students such as Gideon Leiato and Etenauga Voigt got together for the fun of it to do a photo shoot.
Fepulea’i saw a lot of talent in his students, so he decided to “expose” it on facebook. Their work went viral in the Samoan community — locally and off-island — on social media people shared the work and wanted to see more of it.
He knew right then with technology being the biggest influence in our society today and despite not having a talent outlet on island, he wanted to expose his students using social media.
The SHS teacher said, “At school we even have students who can sing, dance but were too shy to show it, so I would also share it on social media and people noticed their talents. I want them to not only share it in school but also outside in the big world.”
Some of these students who Fepulea’i has worked closely with, and showcased their talents on social media, were also chosen to be part of ASTCA and Bluesky advertisements, performing and entertaining at various occasions and events.
“On my Facebook page it is mostly about my students, so I constantly would share about my students because they do need to be recognized even though people think it’s about me.”
He said, “I get excited and happy when I see some of the great Polynesian communities share our work, like Lani Wendt, Coconet TV etc. People’s responses keep me going and (they) want me to do more.”
Lani Wendt Young, author of Telesa and a great role model in the Samoan community also featured Fepulea’i on her news blog, Samoa Planet, about his work and posted on Facebook saying, “I love Ammon’s work at Exposed Photography in American Samoa.”
Dakota who is also a teacher at Samoana High told Samoa News, “Ammon’s charisma and fresh perspectives in any academic or extracurricular setting is positively infectious. Students gravitate to him, wanting to be involved because it’s an interest, hobby or idea that sparks a desire to learn and apply! Ammon is definitely an asset to Samoana High School and the community.”
Samoana High School has opened a You Tube account showing students sharing their talents in song and performance.
Fepulea’i said, “My biggest accomplishment as a teacher, is to see my students become successful because they have learned one or two things from me. Some of these students went away to college, have come back and shared more of their knowledge and ideas with me and we continue to work together just like he/ she was still my student in high school”.
Exposed Photography does do photo shoots for a fee. However, the fee schedule is not posted on the social site, and can only be found by contacting Fepulea’i.