As part of Education Week at the Capitol, the state’s outstanding public school teachers and schools were recognized, along with Hawai‘i students who are making a difference in our community.

The three Hawai‘i teachers selected this year as Milken Family Foundation Educators represent the best and brightest of our public school instructors, are awarded grants and become a part of an exclusive group of Milken Educator alumni. The Milken Award is one of the most prestigious awards an educator can earn. It has been described as the “Oscars of education.”

This year’s winners are:

Kelly Sutcliffe, Jefferson Elementary School

Kelly Sutcliffe is a fourth grade teacher at Jefferson Elementary and has used inventive and original means to teach Jefferson Elementary fourth graders to solve real-world problems. Ms. Sutcliffe adapts her dynamic teaching style to meet students’ personal interests to boost engagement using a variety of visuals, empirical learning tasks, group discussions and physical activity to make each lesson resonate. She is a hands on teacher working side by side with each student to monitor their progress and works with parents as partners in each student’s education, making them key factors that can enable even greater success. Additionally, Sutcliffe is a mentor to future teachers studying at the university level to help them prepare for their careers.

Masaru Uchino, Momilani Elementary School

“Mr. Uchino is truly outstanding and amazing teacher who has, year after year, gone beyond just teaching students in the classroom,” said Sen. Breene Harimoto. Mr. Uchino created the Momilani Drama program in which he writes, produces, choreographs, and directs a new original curriculum-based play each year. He also developed and leads the Momilani Fit Club that incorporates a nutrition and exercise program for students in grades 3-6.

Kaitlyn Huff, Kaala Elementary School “Teachers of Promise”

Kaitlyn Huff was honored state winner of this prestigious award in only her third semester of teaching. Miss Huff strives to broaden her students’ experiences with fun, hands on learning activities that extend into the community and connect with community members.

Her students’ growth rate in English Language Arts/Literacy and Math subjects are the highest in the school and among the highest in the 42 schools in the Central Oahu District. She is also recipient of the District Teacher of Promise Award.

Blue Ribbon Schools of Achievement in Hawai‘i

The US Department of Education recognizes elementary, middle and high schools where students achieve very high learning standards or are making improvements in closing the achievement gap between high needs students and their peers.

Noelani Elementary School

Located in Mānoa Valley and led by Principal Rochelle Mahoe, Ph.D., Noelani students are encouraged to think independently and creatively; to participate, challenge, and persevere in the classroom and community; and develop into life-long learners who will contribute to our society. This is the second time Noelani has been so honored – in 2001, the school was also selected and recognized as a National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education.

Helemano Elementary School

Helemano Elementary School in Whitmore Village is categorized as a “recognition” school, the highest category on the Dept. of Education’s school accountability system known as Strive HI which recognizes schools for various achievements including standardized test scores and reducing chronic absenteeism. Helemano, under the leadership of Principal Ernest Muh, provides opportunities for students beyond traditional core subjects, including fine arts, physical education, music and social emotional learning.

Prudential Spirit of Community Award

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards Program is the nation’s largest youth recognition program based exclusively on volunteer community service. The 2017 award winners are:

Emma Tandara, ‘Ewa Makai Middle School

Emma Tandara’s efforts to promote recycling at her school is motivated by her grandmother, whom she would volunteer with until her grandmother’s passing. When Emma joined her school’s leadership team, she spearheaded a music video explaining the school’s new green initiatives. The video would later be shown to over 300 educators statewide. In total, Emma led a recycling sorting game at three elementary schools, helped coordinate two community recycling drives, and demonstrated how to turn old t-shirts into bags at an emergency preparedness fair.

Lisa Kam, Maryknoll School

Lisa Kam is a senior at Maryknoll School. Lisa was selected as the 2017 Prudential Spirit of Community Distinguished Finalist for creating the "Family Oriented Cultural Understanding Study" also known as FOCUS, which drew teens and their parents to a series of genealogy workshops to help trace their Chinese roots. Lisa created the initiative as part of her volunteer work with Projects Inspired by Teens Changing Hawai‘i. She worked with the Hawai‘i Chinese History Center to secure a speaker. Lisa also contacted schools and Chinese clubs to recruit participants and obtained an in-kind grant for materials and supplies.

Evan Liu, Punahou School

Evan Liu is currently a junior at Punahou School, and is an active volunteer, whose service activities have included keeping patients company at Kuakini Hospital, serving as a teacher's assistant, and as translator at the International Hospitality Center. One of Evan's projects include working with friends to raise $1,000 for cleft lip surgeries through Smile Train. Evan is currently exploring a career in dentistry, and has collected 1,000 toothbrushes for people in need in Guatemala. With all the projects he is involved with, he still finds time volunteering as an assistant at a dental office.

Cierra Nakamura, ‘Iolani School

Cierra Nakamura is a senior at Iolani School and created her philanthropic organization “Smiles Across Miles” after learning about the plight of families in Nepal who suffer economically and are unable to afford proper dental care. She collected thousands of toothbrushes and tubes of toothpaste to send to Nepal and also created a demonstration video for Nepali students. Her next effort was to collect not only dental supplies, but also school supplies for an orphanage in Vietnam. Her Smiles Across Miles program continues to serve: just last month she sent 1,400 toothbrushes and toothpaste with the Aloha Medical Mission to the Philippines. Cierra wants to be a doctor and plans to pursue a career in public health.

Student of Excellence

The Student of Excellence Award honors the student who manages to maintain exemplary grades while balancing participation in school programs and extra-curricular activities. This year’s winner is:

Kacie Kajihara, Kalani High School

Kacie Kajihara is currently a Senior at Kalani High School and has a GPA of 4.125 and has a perfect 36/36 ACT score. She is the President of the school's Leo Club, an athlete on the school's varsity soft tennis team, and a member of the Hawai‘i Youth Symphony and Kalani High School Band playing the oboe and English horn. In 2016, she placed second in the FFA National Argiscience Fair in Plant Science, she is the first top three finalist for Hawai‘i in over 50 years. Even with her academic achievements and extracurricular activities she still manages to hold a part time job at the Diamond Head Aquatics as an accounting assistant.

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