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Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Learn more about the 2020 Complex Area Teachers of the Year

Sixteen educators from across the state were honored last week by the governor and superintendent

Congratulations to the 2020 Complex Area Teachers of the Year! These educators exemplify the best in the teaching profession, who constantly go above and beyond for their colleagues and their students.

The Teacher of the Year award is part of a prestigious national program that honors teaching excellence in the United States. This year, the number of teachers being recognized for their excellence was doubled from eight to 16 finalists, representing each complex area and one finalist from charter schools. Winners are recognized for their ability to inspire students to learn, to have earned respect among students, parents, and peers, to be active in the community as well as school, and to be able to perform the task of representing the teaching profession nationally and internationally.

Click here to view a video produced by the Hawaii Department of Education about these amazing educators!

Here's a brief summary, in alphabetical order, of their accomplishments.

Jessica AdkinsMaui District’s Baldwin-Kekaulike-Maui Complex

Jessica is the P.E. department chair and recreational leadership teacher at Maui High School. She is known for promoting a culture of inclusion by working to improve students’ self-esteem and empowering students to create an accepting school environment.

Her work with the Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools has helped create an inclusive school environment where all students feel welcomed and connected. In fact, her Unified Program gained national notoriety when it was recognized by ESPN as one of the Top 30 Special Olympics programs in the country!

Kai Ah Hee, West Hawaii District’s Honokaa-Kealakehe-Kohala-Konawaena Complex

Kai is a district resource teacher where she has led math, AVID and Next Generation Science Standards implementation. Her vision for the success of all students and work to improve teaching and learning in West Hawaii has been recognized throughout the complex.

She skillfully integrates her deep understanding of cultural and Hawaiian education to create an innovative, place-based curriculum for students.

Kai has been instrumental in organizing and building the complex’s Instructional Leadership and Teacher Leader initiatives, serving as an outstanding mentor for the next generation of West Hawaii teachers.

Courtney Carpenter, Honolulu District’s Farrington-Kaiser-Kalani Complex

A 20-year veteran at Waikiki Elementary, Courtney is known to many as a change-maker, innovator and visionary. An early adopter of Philosophy for Children, or P4C, her lessons are artfully designed to encourage intellectually safe classroom communities. As a result, her students are deep and critical thinkers. 

Her work with the P4C program has seen her serve as an ambassador for Hawaii teachers, traveling to Japan to share her knowledge.

Back here in Hawaii, she is known for her ability to create innovative learning experiences for her students through partnerships with the community, including the Honolulu Zoo to the Diamond Head State Monument.

Dustin Chang, Central District’s Aiea-Moanalua-Radford Complex

You may recognize him from his performances with acts like the Royal Hawaiian Band and the Manao Company, but the DOE recognized Dustin’s accomplishments as a music teacher at Pearl Harbor Elementary.

Dustin is known for his ability to incorporate project-based learning for his students while strengthening the surrounding community through music. He played a critical role in the creation of Pearl Harbor Elementary’s band program by receiving part of VH1’s $100,000 grant for their “Music in the Schools” program. He is instrumental – no pun intended – in Pearl Harbor Elementary’s thriving school culture through his dedication and selflessness. 

Cecilia "CC" Chung, Leeward District’s Campbell-Kapolei Complex

CC is a sixth-grade teacher at Kaimiloa Elementary. 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. 

A Hawaii State Teacher Fellow, she is known as a trusted colleague, motivating leader, and a teacher who has the deepest appreciation and respect from all her peers.

Whether in her role as a teacher, a mentor, or a thought-leader among educators, CC engages individuals with a strong message to collectively build a school and classroom culture where learning is at the heart of every action.

CC was honored Friday as the State Teacher of the Year. Click here for more on the ceremony.

Celeste Endo, Honolulu District’s Kaimuki-McKinley-Roosevelt Complex

Celeste is a technology teacher and coordinator at Queen Kaahumanu Elementary, where she teaches all K-5 students and handles the school’s technology needs.

Colleagues and parents say Celeste motivates her students to explore their own creative potential and boost their curiosity. 

Celeste makes technology fun by introducing students to animation, coding, video production and more. She creates video projects to incorporate student voice and explores ways to enhance learning opportunities for students.

Taylor Flett, Central District’s Leilehua-Mililani-Waialua Complex

Taylor is a seventh-grade math and science teacher at Wheeler Middle School.

Middle school years can be particularly challenging but, Taylor says having the opportunity to work alongside teenagers is a gift, and she’s impressed by the strength and resiliency of her students in the face of their complex struggles. 

She often spends time after school tutoring her students and coaching the track and field team and has even recruited several highly qualified teachers to join the Wheeler Middle faculty. 

As a military spouse, she has a real understanding of the challenges facing military students and their families and uses that knowledge to foster partnerships between the school and military community to ensure student success.

Zoe Ingerson, Charter Schools

Zoe is an English teacher at SEEQS [ pronounced seeks], the charter School for Examining Essential Questions of Sustainability.

Zoe also co-teaches a project-based agriculture class and serves as the department head and lead teacher for this inter-disciplinary course. She teaches in full-inclusion classrooms, where she is passionate about supporting students across a variety of environments and subject areas.

She believes all students deserve individualized instruction, inspiration, and encouragement toward their development as writers. 

Nikki Morishige, Windward District’s Castle-Kahuku Complex

Nikki has served as Waiahole Elementary’s academic coach for the past three years, after nine years as a standout teacher. Her ability to build relationships has led to numerous partnerships providing learning opportunities for students in such vital subjects as art, sustainability, and STEM.

Nikki also facilitates and coordinates Waiahole’s Professional Learning Communities, R-T-I program, 21st Century Afterschool Program and teaches weekly academy lessons. 

Dedicated to students, she continues her professional development with Smarter Balanced Assessment item writing and project-based learning, among many other endeavors.

Megan Nii, Kauai Complex 

Megan is the Academic Coach and the creator and director of the Creative Arts Program at Wilcox Elementary. 

She firmly believes in the profound power of education to uplift and change children's lives. Megan strives to boost the next generation of teachers and has served as a mentor for numerous student teachers. 

During her 14 years of teaching and in her current role, she mentors new teachers, facilitates teacher collaboration, conducts professional development, assists teachers to analyze student performance to determine best practices, and serves as RTI Coordinator and on the Leadership and Academic Review Teams.

Russell Papoza, Hawaii District’s Kau-Keeau-Pahoa Complex

Over his 25-year career, Russell has motivated Hawaii Island students with hands-on engineering challenges that have led to many breakthrough moments.

As a career and technical education (CTE) teacher, he is currently coordinating students to develop a self-sustaining canoe hale, complete with solar and water catchment systems, that will provide a cultural center for school activities. 

Russell also co-chaired the restoration of a Space Shuttle Simulator for the 30th anniversary of the Challenger. His rapport with students is truly impressive with his classroom often filled during recess and lunch with excited students working on projects.

Ululani Russo, Leeward District’s Nanakuli-Waianae Complex 

Ululani is an eighth-grade science teacher at Waianae Intermediate.  

Ululani’s leadership, curricular vision, and core values of educational equity motivated her to integrate Na Hopena Ao and Next Generation Science Standards into curricula that improved academic outcomes and attitudes.  

She is passionate about integrating technology, science, and Hawaiian culture through culturally responsive and place-based learning.  

Ululani’s dedication to her instruction is shown through the community partnerships that she has established, which has enabled her students to conduct hands-on fieldwork focused on their studies, creating applicable learning experiences that also benefit the broader community.

Kathy Sewake, Hawaii District’s Hilo-Waiakea Complex 

Kathy is the technology coordinator at Waiakea Elementary.

She helped provide equity and access to quality education for all students by transitioning classrooms to a one-to-one device program. In addition to maintaining the school’s technology assets for nearly 1,000 students and faculty, Kathy serves as the school’s testing coordinator and established the school’s first digital media production team.

Kathy’s passion for improving the quality of instruction through technology was made evident in her initiative to successfully pursue HIDOE’s Innovation Grant and Computer Science Grant. Both grants enabled teachers to transform their learning environments to better support technology and innovation.  

Kaui Spitalsky, Maui District’s Hana-Lahainaluna-Lanai-Molokai Complex 

Kaui is a Hawaiian language immersion teacher at Lahainaluna High.

She teaches language arts, science and performing arts and crafts through the Hawaiian language and perspective. She is excited to promote Lahainaluna High’s first graduating Hawaiian immersion class this summer!

Kaui spends much of her time meeting with teachers, leadership committee members, parents and other program stakeholders to build a community of support for the Hawaiian immersion program both on and off-campus. She is now part of the Nā Hopena Ao General Learner Outcomes Committee where she will serve as a Hawaiian cultural education advisor to other teachers.

Crystal Stafford, Windward District’s Kailua-Kalaheo Complex 

Crystal is a 12-year veteran who teaches physics, biology, honors biology, and directed study in science at Kalaheo High School. 

She is passionate about creating a stimulating learning environment where all students can reach their full potential.

Crystal dedicates her time to helping students prepare for science competitions at the state, national and international levels, including coaching students for the Science Olympiad. She also founded and created the Aina Hiking Club at Kalaheo, a program designed to foster collaboration and community among students, parents, and teachers, while connecting with the environment. 

Jennifer Yamaguchi, Leeward District’s Pearl City-Waipahu Complex 

Jennifer is a fourth-grade teacher at Pearl City Highlands Elementary. She serves as the grade-level chair and faculty head representative for the Hawaii State Teachers Association. 

A recently recognized Milken Foundation Hawaii Teacher of Promise, Jennifer’s classroom is defined by engaging and rigorous learning experiences that provide a foundation to build positive relationships with each student. 

She has envisioned herself as a teacher ever since she was in the first grade, and those around her say that her passion for education continues to burn brighter than ever.

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Author: Keoki Kerr
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