Kanoelani Elementary special education teacher Jenna Oskey was honored today as the state winner of the prestigious Teacher of Promise Award from the Milken Educators of Hawaii, an organization made up of 70 educators and administrators who have been recognized by the Milken Family Foundation. The Teacher of Promise award annually recognizes Hawaii's outstanding and up-and-coming classroom teachers who demonstrate strong potential during their first six semesters in the classroom.
Jenna was surprised with the certificate of recognition for her exceptional work in front of fellow Kanoelani Elementary teachers and staff, Hawaii State Department of Education (HIDOE) leadership and area lawmakers. As the state winner, she received a $1,500 check from sponsors at the HawaiiUSA Federal Credit Union for professional development purposes.
“Jenna’s tenacity to improve her classroom while supporting her colleagues is unparalleled and unmatched,” said Kanoelani Elementary Principal Stacie Kunihisa. “She has demonstrated a desire to navigate her veteran colleagues through this pandemic and model what any great leader should.”
The Kanoelani teacher was commended for her passion and dedication to her students and colleagues, along with her ability to effectively adapt and thrive in new or challenging situations. Though only in her second year of teaching, Jenna has served as an integral part of the school’s summer learning and reopening initiatives, helping to cultivate innovative strategies for student learning in the new pandemic-era environment. She has been credited with establishing health screening strategies for the school, developing virtual student binders to keep track of online learning and data collection, and initiating weekly virtual parent surveys for collaboration throughout the pandemic.
When it comes to working with students individually, Jenna was recognized for her unique ability to dive deep into student interests and designing lessons and motivational tools to help them advance. She frequently shares best practices in collaboration with other special education teachers through the University of Hawaii’s College of Education and HIDOE’s joint SPEDucator program, which aims to recognize and empower high-quality special education teachers across the state. Jenna has also contributed and participated in HIDOE’s peer-to-peer professional development sessions and has also led many sessions at the school-level to help to foster a collective system of support and learning.
“I’ve heard how much support you are providing to colleagues, looking into solving problems rather than just being aware that the problems are there,” said Board of Education Chairperson Catherine Payne, who is a member of the Milken Educators of Hawaii. “We are so grateful that you are here and contributing to the most vulnerable students and to the educators who work with them.”
Jenna shared her recognition with her fellow staff members. “I’ve been so lucky to work with everyone here at this school with so much support,” she said. “Everything that we’ve done, it’s all been as a team. This definitely isn’t just for me.”
Established in 2007, the Teacher of Promise award alternates annually between elementary and secondary teachers with the state winner selected from a group of HIDOE complex area honorees.