HONOLULU – Motivating students to achieve new levels of success has been a mission for Kaʻala Elementary fourth grade teacher Kaitlyn Huff in her drive to fulfill the promise of learning.
In only her third semester of teaching, Huff was honored as the state winner of the prestigious Teacher of Promise Award from the National Milken Educators of Hawaii. The award annually recognizes a teacher who demonstrates excellence in the field and the highest qualities of a professional educator during their first four semesters in the classroom. Established in 2007, the award alternates annually between elementary and secondary teachers.
Surrounded by her fellow teachers at a surprise faculty meeting, Huff was presented a certificate of recognition for her outstanding work. A $1,000 check for professional development from sponsors at the HawaiiUSA Federal Credit Union will be presented to her at an upcoming National Milken Educators of Hawaii luncheon.
"Today was a huge surprise to me as I would never expect to be recognized for doing my daily duties," said Huff. "I hope other teachers get the opportunity to feel this way inside because it's such an amazing feeling."
Huff strives to broaden her students' experiences with fun, hands-on learning activities that extend into the community and connect with community members. She also embraces opportunities to incorporate STEM themes, technology and social media into lessons to enrich student learning. "I love to see the light bulbs go off in my students' eyes," said Huff.
Huffʻs growth rate in English Language Arts/Literacy and Math subjects are the highest in the school and among the highest among 42 schools in the Central Oahu District.
"We are very proud of Kait, and are thrilled that she has been chosen for this award," said Kaʻala Elementary Principal Teri Bouchard Thorstad. "She is just one of the many new and experienced Kaʻala teachers who care deeply, work diligently, and give our students the tools they need to succeed in the future."
A Moanalua native, Huff began teaching full-time in August 2015 after gaining valuable experience part-time and student teaching, all at Kaʻala Elementary. She earned her bachelor's degree from the University of Oregon in 2013 and her master's degree from the University of Hawaii at Manoa in 2015.
In addition to state Teacher of Promise awardee Huff, three other Hawaii public school teachers received district Teacher of Promise awards and were recognized earlier in the year. They include Peter Nakoa (Nanakuli Elementary), James Braithwaite (Ewa Beach Elementary) and Jenifer Evans (Moanalua Elementary). Seven additional teachers will be presented district Teacher of Promise awards at later dates.