Maui News

HIDOE names finalists for the 2024 Hawaiʻi State Teacher of the Year

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Kaunakakai Elementary teacher David “Kawika” Gonzales Jr. (left) and Wahieʻe Elementary reading coach Melanie Teraoka (right).

The Hawaiʻi State Department of Education today named 15 complex area teachers of the year and one charter school teacher of the year as finalists for the 2024 Hawaiʻi State Teacher of the Year recognition.

“These outstanding educators have an unwavering dedication and passion for high-quality teaching and learning,” said Superintendent Keith Hayashi. “We are proud to recognize them as true embodiments of what it means to be an exceptional educator, and are grateful for the creative and innovative ways in which they engage their students, colleagues and communities on a daily basis.”

The honored finalists, in alphabetical order, are:

TeacherComplex AreaSchoolSubject or Grade
Laurie ChangKaimukī-McKinley-RooseveltAliʻiolani ElementaryEnglish Language Arts and Math
Laura CummingsCastle-KahukuSunset Beach ElementaryMath and Science
Pinky Grace FranciscoKa‘ū-Keaʻau-PāhoaKa‘ū High & Pahala ElementaryEnglish Language Arts
Jackie FreitasLeilehua-Mililani-WaialuaLeilehua HighNatural Resources
David “Kawika” Gonzales Jr. Hana-Lahainaluna-Lanaʻi-MolokaʻiKaunakakai Elementary5th grade
Marina Higa‘Aiea-Moanalua-RadfordMajor General William R. Shafter ElementarySpecial Education
Jennifer IlabanHonoka‘a-Kealakehe-Kohala-Konawaena Kahakai ElementaryEnglish Language Arts
Gregory KentKailua-KalāheoKailua ElementarySTEM
Kara KitamuraKapaʻa-Kauaʻi-WaimeaKapaʻa HighScience and Career Technical Education
Jessica PetersonPearl City-WaipahuAugust Ahrens ElementaryKindergarten 
Christopher PikeHilo-WaiākeaKapiolani Elementary5th grade
Norman Ray SalesFarrington-Kaiser-KalaniFarrington High School Strategic Planner and Academy Coach
John “Parker” SawyerPublic Charter SchoolsKaʻohao SchoolSTEM
Donna SorianoNānākuli-WaiʻanaeWaiʻanae ElementarySTEM and Computer Science
Melanie TeraokaBaldwin-Kekaulike-Kūlanihākoʻi-MauiWahieʻe ElementaryReading Coach
Ariel VillanuevaCampbell-KapoleiEwa Makai MiddleIndustrial Engineering and Technology

In October, one teacher will be announced as the 2024 Hawaiʻi State Teacher of the Year and will go on to represent Hawaiʻi in the National Teacher of the Year program. The honor is presented annually to a teacher selected from more than 13,000 HIDOE educators.


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