University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa (UHM) College of Education (COE) alumni Akeyo Garcia and Masaru Uchino have been awarded the Presidential Award of Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST), the highest award bestowed upon K–12 mathematics and science teachers by the U.S. government.
Garcia, who has been an early childhood educator for more than 20 years, earned a BEd in elementary education, an MEd in curriculum studies (PK–3), and an MEd in early childhood education (ECE). She recently served as a pre-kindergarten program director and teacher at Kamalani Academy Charter School and will return to ‘Ewa Elementary School, where she taught for eight years, to launch a pre-kindergarten program later this year.
“Akeyo is an exceptional early childhood educator who provides leadership within and beyond her school,” ECE Program Director Robyn Chun said. “A skillful, articulate, and master teacher, she brings a passion and deep commitment in all of her endeavors to the young children, families, and communities she serves.”
Garcia’s awards and accomplishments include the Educator of Excellence in Our Community Award; the Kōkua Hawai‘i Foundation Earth Action Projects Award; and more than $50,000 in grants, one of which enabled her to purchase STEM materials for seven classrooms. She attributes her success to her family, numerous professors and advisors at UHM, and the principal and colleagues at ‘Ewa Elementary who have helped shape her into the teacher she is today.
“Teaching is not an isolated field; it requires collaboration,” Garcia said. “The COE prepared me to cooperate with my colleagues, to depend on others, and to support others in return. I met lifelong mentors through the college who continue to support me any time I need help, inspiration, or encouragement.”
Uchino, who teaches third grade at Momilani Elementary School, earned his MEd in educational technology from the COE Department of Learning Design and Technology (LTEC). Leading his students through innovative science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics (STEAM) projects in and out of the classroom, Uchino infuses hands-on lessons with a deeper sense of meaning and community.
“While the award is well deserved, it is not surprising to us that Masa’s innovative work is being recognized,” LTEC Chair Curtis Ho said. “He was a very creative and energetic student in our master’s program, and we are pleased to see one of our graduates continue to apply technology to engage students in meaningful learning.”
Among his numerous achievements, Uchino is a 2016–17 Milken Educator Award winner, a 2015 District Teacher of the Year, and was a finalist for LTEC’s Burniske Award for Outstanding Master’s Project in 2011.
“This recognition is another reason why I am eager to continue working hard to expand my teaching abilities to impact many generations of students to come,” Uchino said. “Overall, I’m grateful for my school’s administration and resource staff for supporting and encouraging me to pursue these types of achievements. It’s truly an honor to represent not only Momilani Elementary School, but also the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. My experiences in the COE program opened my eyes to what educational technology is truly about.”
Presented with a presidential citation at the nation’s capital, Garcia and Uchino were each given $10,000 from the National Science Foundation. They were also invited to participate in discussions on STEM education and priorities while in Washington D.C.