Waiakea High School teacher receives 2019 Global Educator Award

Pacific & Asian Affairs Council honors Joel Wagner-Wright

A Waiakea High School teacher received a top honor from the Pacific and Asian Affairs Council this week.

Joel Wagner-Wright was honored with PAAC's 2019 Global Educator Award at its annual gala on Oahu Thursday.

The award is given to an educator "devoted to enriching students' knowledge of global issues and inspiring them to reach for international learning opportunities."

Wagner-Wright has been teaching PAAC's Afterschool Global Studies Class for 12 years, and led students on study tours to Japan and Vietnam and joined teachers on a trip to China.

“I really think their (PAAC's) mission is fantastic. I love their desire to build greater understanding and awareness about Hawaii’s role in the Pacific and global education in terms of getting students informed of issues and topics that we don’t often get a chance to cover in the regular school day," he said.

Wagner-Wright is Waiakea High School's social studies department chair, and teaches classes in global studies, participation in democracy, psychology, sociology, American problems, political science, humanities. He also serves as the Internship Capstone Teacher for the Public Services Academy.

He and his students have explored topics like human trafficking and domestic violence. A unit on poverty encouraged students to develop a campaign and march, and volunteer at a local shelter. A unit on microplastics and ocean pollution had them teaming up with the University of Hawaii at Hilo's marine biology program to conduct a beach cleanup and work with university students to study microplastics' impact on local sea creatures.

"I have students that hang on my every word when I do my lectures and they get good grades. But if we fast-forward five, 10, or even just a few years, I don’t think they’ll remember the details about US-China relations, or the Reciprocity Treaty," Wagner-Wright said. "But they'll remember the feeling they had while they were doing these activities with me. I think that’s what’s lasting—that belief in oneself that you can get involved and make a difference."