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Ewa Beach educator honored as DOE's 2020 Hawaii State Teacher of the Year

Top teachers from each complex area lauded at Washington Place ceremony

Cecilia Chung, a sixth-grade teacher at Kaimiloa Elementary in Ewa Beach, was honored Friday as the Hawaii Department of Education's 2020 Hawaii State Teacher of the Year.

“As I was sitting here listening to everybody’s accomplishments and achievements, I’m really humbled by the work of our Hawaii public school teachers," Chung said in a brief acceptance speech after her award was announced at a Washington Place ceremony across from the state Capitol Friday afternoon. 

"We are an amazing force of energy and I’d really just like to give applause to every public school teacher in Hawaii,” Chung added, prompting a rousing round of cheers from the audience.

“We work hard to nurture every child,” said Chung, who has taught at Kaimiloa for seven years.

Chung, affectionately known as CC, received the state's top teaching award from Gov. David Ige and Superintendent Christina Kishimoto Friday. Chung will represent Hawaii in the National Teacher of the Year program in Washington, D.C. 

The honor is presented annually to a classroom teacher selected from more than 13,000 educators within the DOE. Chung was among 15 Complex Area Teachers of the Year and the Charter School Teacher of the Year.

“CC is a passionate educator who has an ability to elevate and inspire those around her,” said Kishimoto. “Whether she’s helping to produce the next generation of leaders in her classroom, or mentoring our future teacher leaders here at the Department, CC continues to leave an indelible mark on our community through her hard work. We look forward to following CC's achievements as she continues to inspire those around her to deliver on the power and promise of public education."

A mentor and inspiration to her fellow educators, Chung has led and facilitated a variety of workshops for the education community including the Schools of the Future Conference, EdCamp for West Oahu, and Kamehameha Schools’ Ed Tech Conference. 

She is also a Hawaii State Teacher Fellow, a role in which she works with other thoughtfully and rigorously selected public school teachers to grow their leadership skills, collaborate to bring the voices of teachers to decision-makers, empower teachers, and elevate the teaching profession. 

“I feel that there is a real energy and momentum in our Hawaii public schools right now," Chung said during her acceptance speech. "There is energy around teacher voice, around student voice, around people actually caring and wanting to make a better Hawaii. The community members that are involved, the teachers that are involved, every single person goes into that and we really can’t underestimate the power of that kind of collaboration."

“I’m going to do my best to represent all the amazing teachers in our state, we have so many. And I will do my best to represent this really truly honorable profession that we have here in Hawaii,” Chung said.

Corey Rosenlee, president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association, said, “This is one of my favorite days of the year because we honor the best in teaching. It’s great that we take some time every year to honor our teachers and think about the great things that are happening in our classrooms.”

At Friday’s ceremony, 15 other 2020 Complex Area Teachers of the Year and Charter School Teacher of the Year were honored. Chung was the winner from Leeward District’s Campbell-Kapolei Complex. The full list of finalists honored are, in alphabetical order:

  • Jessica Adkins, Baldwin-Kekaulike-Maui Complex, Maui High.
  • Kai Ah Hee, Honokaʻa-Kealakehe-Kohala-Konawaena Complex, West Hawaii District Office.
  • Courtney Carpenter, Farrington-Kaiser-Kalani Complex, Waikiki Elementary. 
  • Dustin Chang, Aiea-Moanalua-Radford Complex, Pearl Harbor Elementary.
  • Cecilia Chung, Campbell-Kapolei Complex, Kaimiloa Elementary.
  • Celeste Endo, Kaimuki-McKinley-Roosevelt Complex, Queen Kaaahumanu Elementary. 
  • Taylor Flett, Leilehua-Mililani-Waialua Complex, Wheeler Middle.
  • Zoe Ingerson, Public Charter Schools, School for Examining Essential Questions of Sustainability (SEEQS).
  • Nikki Morishige, Castle-Kahuku Complex, Waiahole Elementary. 
  • Megan Nii, Kauai Complex, Wilcox Elementary.
  • Russell Rapoza, Kau-Keaau-Pāhoa Complex, Keaau High.
  • Ululani Russo, Nanakuli-Waianae Complex, Waianae Intermediate.
  • Kathy Sewake, Hilo-Waiākea Complex, Waiakea Elementary.
  • Kaui Spitalsky, Hāna-Lahainaluna-Lanai-Molokai Complex, Lahainaluna High.
  • Crystal Stafford, Kailua-Kalaheo Complex, Kalaheo High.
  • Jennifer Yamaguchi, Pearl City-Waipahu Complex, Pearl City Highlands Elementary.

Read more about each complex area's Teacher of the Year here.

Prizes awarded to the honorees Friday included:

  • A $500 award to each finalist by the Polynesian Cultural Center, the program's corporate sponsor for over 30 years, and $1,000 award to the winner.
  • A $100 award to each finalist by Hawaii Schools Federal Credit Union, and a $250 award to the winner.
  • Honorariums to each finalist by Hawaiian Electric Co. 
  • A one-year lease of a 2019 Kia Niro Hybrid courtesy of the Hawaii Automobile Dealers Association and Aloha Kia to the winner.
  • A $500 gas card courtesy of Par Hawaii to the winner.

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Author: Keoki Kerr
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