University of Hawai‛i (UH) at Mānoa College of Education (COE) alumnus, Ken Kang, is a 2017–18 Milken Educator Award Winner. He is the only recipient from Hawai‛i to receive this prestigious teaching award for the current school year. Hawaiʻi Schools Superintendent Christina Kishimoto and Milken Educator Awards Senior Vice President Jane Foley surprised Kang with the announcement and $25,000 prize during an ‛Aiea High School assembly on February 5, 2018.
Serving as the technology coordinator at ‛Aiea High, where he himself graduated after his family moved to Hawai‛i from Korea, Kang is credited with starting the school’s first STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) class. Since working there, he has quickly become the school’s foremost technology advocate and implementer while helping to develop a STEM curriculum and broader tech strategy for the district.
COE School of Teacher Education Secondary Specialist Frank Walton said, “I have the deepest regard for Ken whose life has been one of commitment, dedication, and service. He made every class, or learning laboratory, better for his peers and his professors. Consistent with his life’s philosophy, he knew that it is more blessed to give than to receive.”
Kang discovered his passion for teaching and a second career after working as an electrical engineer. Fellow ‛Aiea High teacher Wayne Tokuhama reached out to Kang nearly 20 years ago, recognizing that technology in education was expanding rapidly and that schools would need to adjust their curriculum to accommodate the changes. Convinced to apply his real-world experience in a STEM field to the classroom, Kang decided to take on a part-time teaching position.
“It was a total change from working as an engineer,” Kang said. “As an engineer, I had the satisfaction of completing a project; however, as an educator, I was working with students who became somewhat of a project for me, a live project. Not only did I see how I could help and support their future, but I realized that they are our future. The interactions, the successes, the failures… it all became a life-changing event for me.”
In 2005, several years after earning his degree in electrical engineering from UH, Kang received his Post Baccalaureate Certificate in Secondary Education with a focus on career and technical education from the COE.
“The courses and faculty at the COE have had a huge impact on my life,” Kang added. “My advisor, Dr. Frank Walton, gave me such great guidance, reassuring me that I made the right decision to go into a teaching career. I learned that our students, just like us, are individuals. They each have their own stories and experiences that make them who they are. We, as educators, should be cognizant of this and create diverse and safe learning environments.”
About the Milken Educator Award Program
Since 1987, the Milken Educator Awards have been providing public recognition to elementary and secondary school teachers, principals, and specialists nationwide who are furthering excellence in education. Aside from the unrestricted $25,000 cash prize, the program is unique in that educators cannot apply and do not know they are under consideration throughout the confidential selection process.
See the UH News story and video from the award presentation.