Hawaii's Cynthia Tong honored with teaching excellence award in Washington, D.C.

The Ewa Makai Middle School teacher was among five to receive the Horace Mann Award for Teaching Excellence

Hawaii teacher Cynthia Tong was honored in Washington, D.C. Friday as one of the nation's top educators.

The eighth-grade U.S. history teacher at Ewa Makai Middle School was one of five recipients of the NEA Foundation's prestigious Horace Mann Award for Teaching Excellence. The award honors educators for their diligence and dedication to students, colleagues, community and profession.

"Cindy is someone that embraces change, and not just for her school. She's always been a leader at school, but at the same time, she's also trying to change education for all the children of Hawaii. She truly is a leader," said HSTA President Corey Rosenlee.

Tong traveled to Washington with her husband, Eric, to attend the NEA Foundation’s Salute to Excellence in Education Awards Gala at the National Building Museum, where she met the award's four other recipients: Matthew Bacon-Brenes from Portland, OR; Leah Juelke from Fargo, ND; Dan Ryder from Farmington, ME; and Cicely Woodard from Franklin, TN.

"It's an amazing validation for all the work that teachers in Hawaii do. We can be just as good as all the other national teachers. We are way out there, but we can do it. We are good teachers," Tong said. Her message for teachers who may be struggling in underfunded Hawaii classrooms: "We have hope and you've got to hang out to that hope all the time. Work with your joy and push. Hang in there and push for what we need for our kids. We can do this."

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“These five educators kindle ideas, open minds, nurture confidence, and build community. They keep the promise of public education by growing the hearts and minds of their students, preparing them for the challenges and opportunities of tomorrow,” said Harriet Sanford, NEA Foundation president and CEO.  “By honoring them with this award, we thank them and all the public school educators they represent, who work tirelessly on behalf of their students, schools, and communities.”

Woodard received an additional recognition: the NEA Member Benefits Award for Teaching Excellence and $25,000, announced in the evening’s grand finale.

“So many teachers go above and beyond to serve the needs of their students, and these five educators are great examples of what it takes to excel in the classroom,” said Marita Zuraitis, Horace Mann president and CEO. “As a company serving educators’ financial needs for more than 70 years, Horace Mann is pleased to honor these educators for playing an instrumental role in educating the children of our future.”

Tong was nominated for the award upon receiving HSTA's S.T.A.C.Y. Award for Teaching Excellence at the state convention last April.

She has been teaching for 25 years and currently serves on HSTA's Board of Directors, representing teachers in its Leeward Oahu Chapter.

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Below: Allan Robinson, senior vice president, Horace Mann Educator Corporation; Harriet Sanford, president and CEO, The NEA Foundation; Cindy Tong, Horace Mann Awards for Teaching Excellence recipient (HI); Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh, NEA Foundation Board chair; Corey Rosenlee, president, Hawaii State Teachers Association; and Lily Eskelsen Garcia, NEA president. Photo courtesy NEA Foundation.


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