On April 30, 2014, the College of Education’s Kavita Rao and Tory Watanabe were recognized by UH Mānoa Chancellor Tom Apple during an awards ceremony in Orvis Auditorium. Rao received a Regents’ Medal for Excellence in Teaching award, and Watanabe was named Student Employee of the Year (SEOTY).
An assistant professor in the Department of Special Education, Rao has worked with teachers and students in Hawaiʻi, Guam, American Sāmoa, CNMI, Palau, RMI, and the Federated States of Micronesia for more than a decade. With interests in assistive technology, distance learning, multimedia, and literacy for children from diverse backgrounds, she uses a systematic instructional process of analysis, design, development, implementation and evaluation to determine a range of options based on how students learn and demonstrate new knowledge.
“The Department of Special Education is proud that Dr. Kavita Rao was recognized this year for her outstanding teaching performance,” Department Chair Amelia Jenkins said. “Dr. Rao is a valued and respected member of the department and has contributed through teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in technology for individuals with disabilities, and through the development and enhancement of online/hybrid courses.”
Rao teaches in face-to-face and online programs, which enables her to interact with teacher candidates from Oʻahu and the neighbor islands. “I appreciate having this outreach to students across our state,” she said. “It’s very gratifying to see the spark when our teacher candidates experience how various technology-based strategies can support students in their K–12 classrooms. [This] application from university coursework to actual classroom is the most meaningful part of teaching.”
Watanabe serves as an event coordinator for the Campus Center Board Activities Council in the Department of Student Life & Development. His consistent and exemplary work ethic has contributed to the growth and development of the activities council. A junior majoring in secondary education with a social studies focus, he will begin his post-baccalaureate program in the college’s Institute for Teacher Education this fall. As the SEOTY winner, Watanabe received a plaque and a $1,000 scholarship from the Mānoa Career Center and was also selected as the 2014 Hawai‘i State Winner of the Western Association of Student Employment Administrators. “Being named SEOTY is a huge honor,” he said. “The award helps me to realize how crucial a role each and every student staff member plays in our department. It feels great to be recognized for something that you really enjoy doing, something that you don’t even necessarily see as a job.”