HONOLULU – When Jana Fukada arrived at Mililani Uka Elementary in the summer of 2007, her principal was surprised at how quickly the first-year teacher distinguished herself as an educator who, with a blend of care and rigor, earned the trust of her students and praise of her colleagues.
Today, it was Fukada's turn to be stunned as the latest recipient of the prestigious Milken Family Foundation award. Regarded as the "Oscar of Teaching," it honors outstanding excellence in education and carries a $25,000 cash prize.
Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui and Deputy Superintendent Ronn Nozoe joined Jane Foley, Ph.D., senior vice president of the Milken Educator Awards and a 1994 Milken Educator recipient from Indiana, in making the announcement before some 600 students and guests gathered at a school assembly.
"This award may come as a surprise to Ms. Fukada; however, it's no surprise that she is deserving of it," stated Lt. Gov. Tsutsui. "On behalf of the State of Hawaii, I am pleased to offer her congratulatory wishes and appreciation for her hard work and dedication to public education."
"Jana's passion for teaching and continuous drive to refine her lessons to better serve all students create an engaging classroom environment for learning," said Deputy Nozoe. "Her commitment to grow as an educator and share her expertise with her peers has immensely benefited students and Hawaii's public school system."
As a kindergarten teacher, Fukada co-taught an inclusion class and developed plans and assessments for the Hawaii Common Core Standards – new learning goals to ensure students graduate ready for college and careers. Colleagues point to Fukada's ability to weave the curriculum together to create and teach interdisciplinary lessons.
Her work certainly speaks for itself. Recent data from her class showed 70 percent of students were at or near grade level in English; 93 percent were proficient in math, 94 percent were proficient in science and 100 percent met social studies goals.
Fukada knows that the home to school connection is important, which is why she created homework activities to support students and parents in the development of their skills in reading and mathematics. Her efforts go so far as to offering tutoring and assistance after school to the students who need it.
This year Fukada switched roles, serving as a curriculum coach for grades K-2. She's been a grade level chairperson for three years and was the only teacher selected to serve on the state's Student Information Systems Evaluation Committee. Additionally, she has presented at the consortium for the Hawaii Council of Teachers of Mathematics and Hawaii Writing Conference and has visited other islands to help train teachers on math curriculum.
"Jana is always willing to take on a challenge if it will benefit her students and her school," Mililani Uka Principal Heather Wilhelm. "Parents express that she is a 'gem' and that they are so grateful Jana was their child's teacher."
Fukada earned a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Washington and a master's degree in elementary education from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. She is currently working on earning her doctorate from the University of Southern California's Rossier School of Education. Her focus is on the Korean education system.
The Milken Educator Awards, founded by Lowell Milken to attract, retain and motivate outstanding talent to the teaching profession, is the nation's preeminent teacher recognition program, dubbed the "Oscars of Teaching" by Teacher Magazine. Since 1987, the Milken Family Foundation, co-founded by Michael and Lowell Milken, has devoted more than $137 million in funding to the Milken Educator Awards, including over $65 million in individual Awards to more than 2,600 recipients plus powerful professional development opportunities and networking with leading education stakeholders.
Hawaii Milken Educators
For more information, including a list of all former Hawaii and national award winners, please visit
- Hawaii joined the Milken Educator Awards program in 1990.
- Since its inception, 72 Hawaii educators have received Milken Educator Awards totaling $1,800,000.