Education Week 2017 at the State Capitol kicked off with a salute to the Department of Education’s outstanding teachers, the first of a series of formal presentation ceremonies in the Senate Chambers celebrating the successes in the classroom and community.

Hawai’i’s public school teachers number just over 12,000. The eight recognized today on the floor of the Senate were chosen through a rigorous selection process that includes the teacher’s ability to inspire students to learn; to have earned respect among students, parents, and peers; to be active in the community as well as school; and to be able to perform the task of representing the teaching profession nationally and internationally.

State Department of Education Teachers of the Year:

• Sung Man Park, State (and Honolulu District) Teacher of the Year

Sung Man Park is a math teacher at Washington Middle School and coaches the school’s MATHCOUNTS team since 2010. Every year since, his team has won the state championship. He has been teaching in the public schools for 12 years and through math, Park develops a love of learning and resilience that is essential for student success in school and life.

• Kay Beach, Public Charter Schools Teacher of the Year

Kay Beach is an English Language Arts and Project-Based Learning teacher at SEEQS who creates safe spaces for her students to develop their minds through openness, empathy and value learning. She believes education is the gateway to developing a generation of individuals who create and live in a world of discovery.

• Luane Higuchi, Leeward District Teacher of the Year

Luane Higuchi leads the award winning digital media program at Wai‘anae Intermediate School. She challenges her students to surpass their own expectations with successful results. Higuchi also has opened new opportunities for her students by coordinating the Wai‘anae Coast Film Festival and launching a new video contest, Na Hana Pookela o Wai‘anae.

• Jennifer Suzuki, Maui District Teacher of the Year

Jennifer Suzuki is a 17-year teacher who seeks performance-based, real-work opportunities for her students. She has worked to expand the STEM programs at Maui Waena Intermediate to include gardening, coding, media, and robotics. She also produces and invites the community to an annual Technology Bazaar that showcases the talents of her students in video, robotics, and other projects.

• Tracey Idica, Central District Teacher of the Year

Tracey Idica is a 34-year teacher certified in English Language Arts instructor at Aiea High School who encourages her students to “dream big and make a difference.” She sets the stage for success with her students through the TRIBES agreements: mutual respect, attentive listening, right to participate/pass, appreciations/no put downs.

• Kristi Kusunoki, Windward District Teacher of the Year

Kristi Kusunoki is a 10-year music instructor at Kailua Intermediate School and believes through music, students learn to become contributing members of society. Kusunoki organizes musical events to increase music literacy and to highlight the talents of her students. While improving their technical skills, she also works to develop their ability to recognize and respond to each other as they play, which elevates their performance.

• Laurie Ann O’Brien, Hawaii Island District Teacher of the Year

Laurie Ann O’Brien is a mathematics teacher at Keaau High School and much more. O’Brien is also an afterschool track and field coach and she worked with community individuals and stores to sponsor shoes, clothes and snacks when she learned that many of her students lacked the “basics.” She is currently pioneering a new computer science course to further her students’ understanding of and preparation for the real world.

• David Mireles, Kauai District Teacher of the Year

David Mireles is a 26-year teacher and coach at Kapaa High School is praised by colleagues, students and parents for his enthusiastic, consistent, and innovative approach on education. He works to inspire all his students, even the most reluctant learners and his mantra is equal educational access for all, regardless of socioeconomic status, perceived ability, or documented disability.

Pictured: Luane Higuchi, Leeward District, Buffy Cashman Patz on behalf of Kay Beach, Public Charter Schools.

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