College of Education (COE) Associate Specialist Stephanie Furuta and Associate Professor Seungoh Paek are 2022 UH Mānoa Presidential Citation for Meritorious Teaching award winners. The award recognizes faculty members for their outstanding level of subject mastery and scholarship, teaching effectiveness, and personal character.
Furuta and Paek were among 13 selected out of 30 finalists from all of the colleges and schools as well as more than 350 initial nominations submitted by faculty, staff, students, and alumni.
With the COE since 2008, Furuta is a Master of Education in Teaching (MEdT) faculty member as well as the Hawaiʻi Writing Project Director. Prior to the COE, she taught for 15 years in the Hawaiʽi Department of Education (DOE) as an elementary school teacher and district resource teacher, which, she says, gave her grounding in the teaching profession.
“This award recognizes my many mentors, colleagues, and students who I have learned from and who have influenced me over the course of my career in the DOE and at UH Mānoa,” said Furuta. “I’m humbled to receive this recognition and hope that this is an indication that my work has positively impacted those that I’ve had the privilege of collaborating with and teaching. I am so grateful to those that I work with in MEdT and the COE who have constantly supported me and my work.””
Furuta’s teaching approach is based in allowing her students to learn by doing and reflecting. Providing opportunities for learners to actively engage in learning and critical reflection, she says, is of the utmost importance.
“The MEdT Program is honored and humbled that Dr. Furuta has been selected for this award, MEdT Director Jon Yoshioka said. “Dr. Furuta is a consummate educator whose skill in weaving together educational theory and practice is immediately and clearly evident in the numerous, consistent, extremely positive student evaluations she receives and in the supportive, highly engaged community of learners she creates and nurtures.”
Paek joined the COE Learning Design and Technology Department (LTEC) nearly 10 years ago. Her areas of interest include interactive multimedia design, instructional technology, cognitive science, developmental psychology, math education, and evaluation.
“My LTEC colleagues have supported my teaching in every way–sharing ideas, trying different approaches, being open to collaboration,” said Paek. “In addition, our students have supported me by being open-minded, hard-working, and willing to view learning as a process. I’m very grateful to have received such recognition when I know there are many others in the College of Education who have helped me in countless ways. Thank you everyone for your kind support and messages!”
Paek summarizes her teaching philosophy in one word: understanding. She says it is essential to all aspects of teaching and learning and that it is her purpose to help students understand content at multiple levels and to understand them as individuals and as learners.
LTEC Chair Michael Menchaca said, “Dr. Paek is an inspiration to her students, eliciting excellence through compassion. She readily accepts new teaching challenges, including recently designing a contemporary course on cognition and technology. In an early reflection, Dr. Paek stated: ‘Since my first day as an Assistant Professor, I have strived for excellence in teaching.’ Suffice it to say, now as a master of her craft, she has more than achieved that goal.”
An awards ceremony is tentatively scheduled for May 2, 2022 and would include this year’s award recipients as well as 2020 and 2021 recipients.