Milken Educator Awards Badge
Milken Educator Awards Badge

Following 2019 Hawai’i Milken Educator Award winner, Sara King, four other COE alumni have been named Teachers of Promise by the National Milken Educators of Hawai‘i. Bella Finau-Faumuina is the Hawai‘i State winner while Terrence Tenjoma, Ashley Ono, and Kari Odo are districts winners.

“We continue to be amazed by and extremely proud of our fine students and alumni,” said Dean Nathan M. Murata. “These teachers deserve the recognition they receive and I am sure will earn many more accolades in their careers in education.”

Finau-Faumuina (pictured), who is in her third year of teaching at Kāne‘ohe Elementary School, earned a BEd in Exceptional Students and Elementary Education (ESEE) and is a current MEd student in Curriculum Studies (STEMS²). She was surprised with the award and accompanying $1,000 check during a school-wide assembly.

Tara O’Neill, Curriculum Studies Professor and STEMS2 Director, said, “It is great to see such an amazing person being honored. The impact and transformation that her work has created is exciting.”

Among her roles at Kāne‘ohe Elementary, Finau-Faumuina leads the Innovation Academy, an experimental school within a school. Providing inclusive learning experiences for students with disabilities, the academy integrates hands-on lessons aimed at relevance and relatability. Finau-Faumuina also creates opportunities for students to work with community partners who show them how their classroom lessons are applicable to different careers.

“Bella was a phenomenal, hard-working, and generous student teacher in my Huliau cohort,” said Ku‘ulei Serna, School of Teacher Education Elementary Education Director.

A Honolulu District winner, Tenjoma is a teacher at Noelani Elementary School. He received his BEd in Elementary Education and is currently an MEd in Educational Foundations student. Another Honolulu District winner, Odo teaches at Haha‘ione Elementary School and earned her Post Baccalaureate Certificate in Special Education. The Leeward District winner is Makaha Elementary School’s Ashley Ono who earned her BEd in Elementary & Special Education and is a current MEd in Special Education student.

Established in 2007, the Milken Teacher of Promise award recognizes a teacher who demonstrates excellence in the field and the highest qualities of a professional educator during their first six semesters in the classroom. The award alternates annually between elementary and secondary teachers.

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