HONOLULU - Kailua Intermediate teacher Ryan Kagami believes that in order for students to understand the world of science, they must become part of it.
Kagami, who teaches seventh- and eighth-grade science, was honored this morning as the National Milken Educators of Hawaii 'Teacher of Promise.' The award annually recognizes a teacher who demonstrates excellence in the field and the highest qualities of a professional educator during the first four semesters in the classroom. Established in 2007, the award alternates annually between elementary and secondary teachers.
Shortly after Kagami received a plaque and $1,000 through a sponsorship from HawaiiUSA Federal Credit Union during a school assembly, he quickly joined students in a nearby beach cleanup – not surprising for an educator who sets an example for hands-on learning.
"Ryan is an exceptional educator who promotes instruction that inspires students to become active citizens of the world as they participate in scientific thinking, solve problems and prepare for college," said Kailua Intermediate Principal Lisa DeLong. "In Ryan’s classes, science concepts become relevant because students find practical applications all around them."
To make his lessons come alive, Kagami wrote and received grants to fund a classroom aquaponics system. The miniature lab draws students’ interest in complex topics such as water and nitrogen cycles, plant biology, fish anatomy, and the role microbial communities play in the earth’s ecosystem and humans. Kagami is currently partnering with parents, local businesses, community leaders and military neighbors to submit a Repair, Remodel, Restore Our Schools (3Rs) grant to build and house a larger structure on the campus.
A team player, Kagami collaborates and plans regularly with fellow science teachers. This past summer, for example, they met to develop pacing guides aligned with the Hawaii Common Core State Standards – a new set of consistent expectations for what students should know and be able to do at each grade to graduate college and career ready.
The group once participated in an afterschool ghost walk in which they visited classrooms with no students present to see how well each teacher was using the classroom environment – such as posting student work with feedback – to support student learning.
Kagami was also a catalyst in launching the Advancement Via Individual Determination, or AVID, program at Kailua Intermediate. This school year, the home of the Jr. Surfriders fully implemented AVID, which promotes college readiness and high expectations.
Kagami began teaching at Kailua Intermediate in January 2012. The Castle High graduate earned a bachelor’s degree in zoology from the University of Hawaii at Manoa and a master’s degree in secondary education from Chaminade University.
The National Milken Educators of Hawaii (NMEH) committee members who selected Kagami for the award are all past recipients of the National Milken Educator Award. Presenting today’s award were former Milken Educators Catherine Payne (‘95), Estelle Wong (‘99) and Ellen Schroeder (‘97).
In addition to Kagami, four other Hawaii public school teachers nominated for the 'Teacher of Promise' award were recognized earlier in the year. They include Nathan Pontious (Kauai High), Christian Simoy (Aiea High), Christopher Ho (Keaau High) and Tricia Dong (Waianae Intermediate).