November 2021 Ho‘oha‘aheo, Teacher of the Year edition


Our monthly online publication to highlight bright spots from across the public school system. This month's issue features sixteen finalists for the 2022 Hawaii State Teacher of the Year, representing each of our complex areas and one finalist from charter schools.


Editor's Note: The annual Hawai‘i State Teacher of the Year award represents HIDOE’s highest teaching honor. One outstanding educator will be named the 2022 Hawai‘i State Teacher of the Year in a virtual ceremony on Dec. 3 from among 16 finalists, representing each of our complex areas and one finalist from charter schools. The state winner will go on to represent Hawai‘i on the national stage. As we’ve done the past two years, we are dedicating this issue as a special edition celebrating the 2022 HSTOY finalists. Each educator was asked to share: What makes you #PublicSchoolProud? This year’s impressive slate of honorees is a great source of pride for Hawai‘i and our public schools. Mahalo and congratulations!

You Inspire and Change Lives

» Pictured above: Lori Kwee, 2021 Hawai‘i State Teacher of the Year

First, I would like to express heartfelt gratitude to all of you — Hawai‘i’s educators — for the inspiring, passionate, extraordinary service you do everyday for all students to feel connected, successful, joyful and confident. 


I am sincerely humbled and honored to have served as your 2021 Hawai‘i State Teacher of the Year and I am proud of all of you. A momentous highlight in my life was a recent recognition ceremony in Washington, D.C., to represent Hawai‘i’s teachers, students, and people. I met Dr. Jill Biden at the White House where I shared our message of aloha as she expressed her appreciation to educators for the huge impact educators make changing lives and changing the world.

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2022 Complex Area Teachers of the Year

ʻĀina Akamu


Kaʻū High & Pāhala Elementary

» What makes me #PublicSchoolProud is knowing how many generations of families have grown and learned on our campus. As we celebrate 140 years since opening in 1881, I am proud to play a part in making our school more sustainable and grounding us in an authentic sense of place.

Whitney Aragaki


Waiākea High

» The foundation of our school system is its centric location to the community it serves. I am a proud Waiākea High graduate and teacher. It is an honor to serve my community. I am grateful for the public school teachers who continue to impact my children. We are #PublicSchoolProud.

Wesley Capdepon


Honoka‘a Elementary

» I am #PublicSchoolProud because when I feel weak, the strength and resiliency of my students and community make me feel strong again. They are the reason I teach.

Cara Chaudron

Public Charter Schools

SEEQS: The School for Examining Essential Questions of Sustainability

» I am #PublicSchoolProud because all students have a right to a high-quality education surrounded by teachers who care about what they do. I loved being a student at Hōkūlani Elementary and inherited a genuine love of learning. Now I work to spread this joy among my own students.

Trisha Gibson


‘Aiea Elementary

» I am a proud product of Hawai‘i’s public school system – a Kapa‘a Warrior from the island of Kaua‘i. Now, as an academic coach, I have the privilege of serving our keiki with the most dedicated teachers and staff. My AMR Complex Area ʻohana makes me #PublicSchoolProud.

Wendy Gumm



Nānāikapono Elementary

» I am #PublicSchoolProud because our staff is united in delivering quality education and providing a caring ʻohana campus atmosphere. Students want to come to school at Nākāikapono! They know that they will be given opportunities to make their future better.

Ashley Mika Ito-Macion

Pearl City-Waipahu

Kanoelani Elementary

» Having attended public school at Mililani High, I hope to create educational opportunities for my students that are meaningful, resonating and fun! Being a #PublicSchoolProud teacher means we are given the opportunity every day to be the most resourceful and dedicated educators.

Corrie Izumoto


Kawānanakoa Middle

» I am #PublicSchoolProud because I believe every child deserves a free education provided by teachers who are dedicated to preparing children for a positive future. I truly want them to be successful in the classroom and successful in life. #PublicSchoolsRULE!

Jim Kunimitsu


Pōhākea Elementary

» Throughout my life, I've had many teachers that have supported and inspired me. In return, I proudly strive to be that person for others. As my students look back on their own journey, I want them to be proud of where they came from and what they have accomplished.

Richard Lau


Kalāheo High

» As a graduate of McKinley High, I am a product of the public school system. I am now empowering my students as a student activities coordinator. We have great schools because of the passion and hard work of the teachers. Mahalo for all you do to give our students the best education.

Theresa Malone


Kalāheo Elementary

» I am #PublicSchoolProud because I am blessed with the opportunity to work with the keiki in my community. Kauaʻi kids are bright, resilient, hardworking and compassionate. Every day we grow and learn from one another. New adventures daily!

Jeni Miyahira


Mililani High

» We teach because we love our students, but we stay because of the communities we build.

Miyuki Sekimitsu


Kāne‘ohe Elementary

» I believe all students deserve to have a safe space to learn about themselves and the world around them through empathy, relationships, choice and opportunities for student voice. I am proud to empower our future alongside inspiring educators who are caring, life-long learners.

Wendy Shigeta


Haha‘ione Elementary

» I am #PublicSchoolProud because our public schools are filled with so much diversity, talent and creativity! My colleagues, my students and my family all inspire me and fill me with great hope and anticipation for a better and brighter future.

William Tatro


Lahainaluna High

» My pride in my students discovering their diverse abilities, creativity and seeing their “aha” learning moments humbles and delights me as a public school educator. Instilling in my students a foundation of confidence and support, inspires them to know they can learn & succeed.

Lisa Yamada


Wailuku Elementary

» I am #PublicSchoolProud because I was a public school attendee. Born and raised Native Hawaiian-Asian from Lahaina, I still speak pidgin and have learned a variety of Filipino and Portuguese etiquette and love cultural dishes. I've grown with an ever-changing diversity of people.

2022 Hawai‘i State Teacher of the Year

» Tune in to watch the Hawai‘i State Teacher of the Year virtual ceremony that will be livestreamed on HIDOEʻs Facebook page (account is not needed to view) on Friday, Dec. 3 from 3-4 p.m.


Keith Hayashi

Interim Superintendent

Phyllis Unebasami
Deputy Superintendent


Heidi Armstrong
Student Support Services
Sean Bacon
Talent Management
Brian Hallett
Fiscal Services
Randall Tanaka
Facilities and Operations

Christine Shaw

Information Technology Services

Cara Tanimura

Strategy, Innovation and Performance

Teri Ushijima

Curriculum and Instructional Design



Nanea Kalani

Executive Editor

Chanel Honda

Managing Editor

Sara Miyazono
Creative Director




1390 Miller St. Honolulu, HI 96813 | Phone: (808) 784-6200 | Fax: (808) 586-3234

Contact Information

Communications Branch

Phone: (808) 784-6200



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