The HIDOE will announce the winner today, December 3, 2021
Ten UH Mānoa College of Education (COE) alumni have been named complex area teachers of the year by the Hawai‘i Department of Education (HIDOE). Among 16 finalists for Hawaiʻi State Teacher of the Year, including one educator from a charter school, are Lisa Yamada, Jeni Miyahira, Whitney Aragaki, Ashley Mika Ito-Macion, Wendy Gumm, Wendy Shigeta, Jim Kunimitsu, Richard Lau, Cara Chaudron, and Trisha Gibson.
The winner, who will be announced today, December 3, 2021, goes on to compete for National Teacher of the Year.
Yamada, who teaches third grade at Wailuku Elementary School, earned a BEd in Elementary Education. Being a part of a cohort with online and face-to-face courses, she says the sense of community at the COE helped her to stay on task, share experiences, and move ahead.
“Being a single mom of three young daughters and putting myself through college was a real task,” Yamada shared. “This award brings a feeling of accomplishment. Through it all, the difficult and the simple, God was with me. This Lahaina girl, victim of domestic violence and assault, has made a great accomplishment!”
Miyahira, who holds a BEd in Secondary Education, works at Mililani High School. Coming from a family of educators, including her parents and two sisters, she says she entered the field of education knowing the sacrifices, hardships, and rewards of being a public school teacher because of their influence. Like Yamada, she says the relationships and conversations with her professors and peers are the most valuable part of her academic journey at the COE.
“Being able to collaborate and problem solve with colleagues is an integral part of my professional practice and that is something that was firmly established as an undergrad in the COE program,” Miyahira said.
Current doctoral student in curriculum studies, Aragaki teaches at Waiākea High School, her alma mater. As a distance student, she says she is able to participate equitably with her classmates and meet teacher leaders from the public and private sectors in Hawaiʻi who are helping to deepen her commitment to anti-oppression pedagogy.
Aragaki stated, “I am a second-generation public school educator, and I am thankful to have had many mentors and positive influences along the way who have shaped my global perspectives and local kuleana to our home community. This award affirms that my efforts are moving in a positive direction by those who are knowledgeable about the profession.”
Ito-Macion, who teaches at Kanoelani Elementary School, holds a BEd in Elementary Education. She credits the COE with helping to prepare her for anything, build resilience, and find approaches to problem-solving.
“I could not have won this award without the community of teachers I have met and collaborated with,” Ito-Macion said. “My mother was my first teacher. She was my biggest cheerleader when I finally decided I wanted to go into education during my senior year of high school. I owe every success, every failure, every bit of passion to her.”
An MEd in Special Education alumna, Gumm works at Nānāikapono Elementary School where she says she is confident in her teaching strategies, knowledge of curriculum, and engagement with her peers and faculty, thanks to the courses she took at the COE. Her grandmother, who was an educator for more than 40 years influenced her to become a teacher.
Gumm shared, “It is very hard to realize that what you do in your day-to-day profession can impact so many people. I never thought about the worth of my efforts because I enjoy doing what I do, and it seems so natural. I am very proud to represent West Oʻahu and want to thank all of the community members, my colleagues, and parents for their support and for cheering me on.”
Shigeta, who is a student services coordinator at Haha‘ione Elementary School, earned an MEd in counseling and guidance. Of her time in the COE, she says the practicums and internships were especially helpful as they provided opportunities to see and help with real-life challenges. She stated, “The program provided a good foundational understanding of counseling as well as the public school system in Hawaiʻi.”
“This award is a great honor as there are so many talented and dedicated educators,” Shigeta added. “I am just one of many and am very humbled to represent all of these amazing teachers and educators.”
A BEd in Elementary Education and Special Education alumnus, Kunimitsu works at Pōhākea Elementary School. He says his parents, who are both retired teachers, inspired him to become a teacher because he witnessed the joy and satisfaction they experienced when they positively impacted a child’s life.
Kunimitsu said, “This award is truly an honor. I feel that I represent many of the teachers in our complex who work extremely hard and share a passion for helping others. This award is recognition and validation of all the efforts that my fellow educators and myself pour into our schools and students.”
A student activities coordinator at Kalāheo High School, Lau has a BED in Secondary Education. Networking with other future teachers in the COE program, he says, helped him to build strong connections with educators who became resources and support to one another. He traces his inspiration to pursue a career in education back to the fourth grade.
Lau said, “Mrs. Yvonne Wakata, my fourth grade teacher, inspired me to become an educator. She treated students with kindness and respect, and I try to teach these same values in my classroom and through the student activities I plan. Thank you, Mrs. Wakata, for being an amazing teacher. I share this award with teachers across the state because of all the sacrifices they make every day, especially during the last two years.”
Chaudron and Gibson are also complex area teachers of the year. Chaudron, who teaches math at SEEQS: The School for Examining Essential Questions of Sustainability, earned an EdD in Professional Practice. Gibson, an academic coach at ‘Aiea Elementary, earned a BEd in Elementary Education and Special Education as well as an MEd in Special Education.
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