COE Alumni Nel Venzon (far left) and Daniel Taira (far right) with fellow Hawai‘i winners, Brian Ogawa and Daphne Okunaga
COE Alumni Nel Venzon (far left) and Daniel Taira (far right) with fellow Hawai‘i winners, Brian Ogawa and Daphne Okunaga

On October 15, 2019, the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) were announced by President Donald J. Trump. College of Education (COE) alumni, Nel Venzon and Daniel Taira, were among four teachers selected from Hawai‘i for their distinction in the classroom and dedication to improving science and math education. Established in 1983, PAEMST is the highest award given to K–12 teachers of mathematics and science.

Venzon, who earned his Master of Education in Teaching (MEdT) degree at the COE, has been a mathematics and science teacher for 14 years. From 2006–2009, he taught integrated mathematics at the University Laboratory School.
He currently teaches pre-advanced and advanced placement biology at Mililani High School and is an adjunct professor at Wayland Baptist University.

“The COE has provided a solid foundation in my pursuit of a science teaching career,” Venzon said. “I am also indebted to two professors who unconditionally supported me during my pre-service years in the MEdT program: Dr. Tara O’Neill and Dr. Scott Robinson. They inspired and encouraged me to enjoy working with students as a fundamental part of the teaching profession.”

A mathematics and science educator at Lehua Elementary School for the past nine years, Taira holds a Bachelor of Education (BEd) in Elementary Education degree from the COE. As a co-leader of Lehua’s Math Olympiad team, he and his students have earned multiple trophies and recognitions. He is currently certified to teach kindergarten through sixth grade.

“I am deeply humbled to receive the Presidential Award and represent Lehua Elementary School,” Taira said in a PAEMST release. “This award serves as added motivation to continue finding new ways to make mathematics engaging and enjoyable for my students, so they can find the confidence to excel in whatever path they choose in life.”

Educators from the 50 States; District of Columbia; Department of Defense; and U.S. territories of Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the United States Virgin Islands were selected for 2017–18. The awards ceremony was held on October 17, 2019 at Sidney Yates Auditorium in Washington, D.C.

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