Board of Regents medals awarded for teaching excellence

May 15, 2017  |   |  Comments
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Headshots of the recipients of the Regentsʻ Medal for Excellence in Teaching

Top row, from left: Erick Cremer, Albert S. Kim, Kenneth L. Lawson, Winona K. Lee, Nicolas Logue, Michelle A. Manes, Tara B. OʻNeill, Derek Otsuji, Adam Pack, Shane B. Payba, Georgeanne Purvinis, Scott C. Sinnett, Cheri Souza and Carleen S. Yokotake

University of Hawaiʻi faculty members Erick Cremer, Albert S. Kim, Kenneth L. Lawson, Winona K. Lee, Nicolas Logue, Michelle A. Manes, Tara B. OʻNeill, Derek Otsuji, Adam Pack, Shane B. Payba, Georgeanne Purvinis, Scott C. Sinnett, Cheri Souza and Carleen S. Yokotake were honored with the Board of Regents’ Medal for Excellence. The award is a tribute to faculty members who exhibit an extraordinary level of subject level mastery and scholarship, teaching effectiveness, and creativity and personal values that benefit students.

2017 honorees

Erick Cremer
Assistant Professor, nursing, Hawaiʻi Community College

As the Nursing Learning Resource Center instructor at Hawaiʻi Community College’s Hilo campus, Erick Cremer collaborates with teaching faculty to support student learning in the laboratory setting. He leads skills workshops, provides math tutoring, delivers academic and career counseling and conducts outreach in the community.

Students describe him as an indispensable guide on their academic journey who is dedicated to their success from the moment they are accepted. He is an approachable, helpful, knowledgeable and encouraging mentor for students.

An exceptional teacher who finds creative ways to simplify difficult concepts, Cremer is aware of different learning styles and tailors his teaching approach for each student. He creates a supportive learning environment to help students become nurturing and thoughtful nurses.

Cremer earned his associate of science in nursing from the Hawaiʻi CC nursing program. He also has a certificate from UH Hilo, a bachelor’s of science from the University of California–Davis, a master’s of science from UH Mānoa and a master’s of science from Gonzaga University.

Albert S. Kim
Associate Professor, College of Engineering, UH Mānoa

Albert S. Kim is an associate professor in the civil and environmental engineering department in the College of Engineering.

He is described by his students as a “once-in-a-generation mentor, professor and teacher, inspiring the next generation of engineers and leaders” and as “instrumental in unlocking my potential and finding my calling.”

Kim makes the complex field of engineering accessible and fun, creating a sense of community and belonging in the classroom. He attends, with greater focus, to students who are initially lagging, with a goal to produce academically mature students who are able to face and tackle complex practical problems with technological honesty, sincerity and creativity.

Kim has developed his own text for one course, and his blog and ample external resources are tremendous additions to this program.

Kenneth L. Lawson
Associate Faculty Specialist, William S. Richardson School of Law, UH Mānoa

Kenneth Lawson is an associate faculty specialist and co-director of the Hawaiʻi Innocence Project (HIP) at the William S. Richardson School of Law.

He brings what his colleagues describe as “extraordinary gifts” and “strength of character” into the classroom, and in so doing is “truly inspirational to his colleagues as well as his students.” Even more impressive is the passionate engagement of his students with praise that resonates for all his diverse and substantial teaching load.

He is also credited for his innovations that have transformed HIP into a place where law students learn to conduct intake, investigate claims of innocence, evaluate cases and advocate on behalf of inmates with strong factual evidence of actual innocence. He encourages students to regard HIP as a teaching law firm with exceptionally high standards.

Winona K. Lee
Assistant Professor, John A. Burns School of Medicine, UH Mānoa

Winona K. Lee is an assistant professor in the Department of Native Hawaiian Health at the John A. Burns School of Medicine. She envisions herself as hale ipukukui or lighthouse, in direct lineage from her great-grandfather 70 years ago, the lighthouse keeper at Kalaupapa.

Teaching in the ʻImi Hoʻōla (Hawaiian for “those who seek to heal”) program with students from disadvantaged backgrounds, Lee applies adaptive learning practices, tailoring instruction and curricula to meet students’ individual learning styles based on each student’s foundational knowledge, strengths, individual learning styles, motivations and challenges. This innovative and progressive medical professional curriculum has been a part of the ʻImi Hoʻōla Program curriculum and evaluation since 2007.

Lee’s mission is to teach complex biological concepts and processes to students whose weakest areas prior to ʻImi Hoʻōla were the sciences. Every year Lee provides her students an exceptional service-learning opportunity by traveling to Kalaupapa (home of two historic Hansen’s disease settlements), a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that impacts deeply on their future professional work.

Nicolas Logue
Instructor, theatre, Windward Community College

Nicolas Logue is a theatre educator, actor, director and fight choreographer who has worked professionally in London, New York, Beijing and Honolulu. Prior to joining the faculty at Windward CC, Logue served as head of world performance at East 15 Acting School in England. He is currently planning a study abroad trip with students to London this summer which includes studies at the Globe Theatre, home of Shakespeare.

Students say that Logue is a fearless and inspiring leader who connects with students on a personal level, as individuals. He relates theatre and games to life. He teaches practical skills—to listen, to be disciplined, to focus and be committed.

One student who is a Gulf-War Vet with post traumatic stress disorder said, “Each class was therapeutic, sometimes painful, but always a self-examination. I am forever grateful. Of all the instructors I have met since leaving military service behind, Nick is the only one who I can be completely honest with. His professionalism and candidness mark him both as a mentor to be emulated, and a friend to be trusted.”

Another student said, “I would not be the person I am—happy and goal-oriented—if it was not for Nick Logue. He has changed my life for the better.”

Michelle A. Manes
Associate Professor, mathematics, UH Mānoa

Associate Professor Michelle Manes believes the teaching of mathematics can develop through collaboration, partial progress, incremental success and revisions. She feels strongly that her students gain confidence in their mathematical abilities through animated, engaging problems rather than skill drills.

Manes inspires and assists graduate students who describe her as having an immense impact on their careers as they journey on their paths toward becoming educators.

She extends her teaching beyond the campus through collaboration with another Mānoa colleague on projects and grants to support K–12 mathematics education, including the development of an electronic mathematics textbook. These efforts have created a trajectory for high school graduates who are better prepared for their academic journeys at UH Mānoa.

Tara B. O’Neill
Associate Professor, College of Education, UH Mānoa

Associate Professor Tara O’Neill has a teaching philosophy rooted in equity and social justice that has become fortified during her eight years at UH Mānoa. She has worked with pre-service teachers and their Department of Education teaching mentors, in educational partnerships with the Polynesian Voyaging Society and ʻOhana Waʻa, and has represented the College of Education as a crew member on Leg 9 of Hōkūleʻa’s Worldwide Voyage.

These experiences have influenced her commitment to teaching STEM-based courses and have led her to develop a new educational construct called STEMS2, the first four letters indicating science, technology, engineering and mathematics to which she has added social studies and sense of place.

She credits the Hawaiian reciprocal process of aʻo, that is, to teach and to learn, as guiding her and her students through “self-reflection and supporting productive and critical science argumentation, while working together through moments of cognitive dissonance and conflict that emerge from democratic exchange.” Her approaches inspire students and colleagues alike.

Derek Otsuji
Assistant Professor, English, Honolulu Community College

Derek Otsuji is described by his students and peers as “cheerful, effective, empathetic, innovative, peerless, patient and approachable.”

His students describe a “stellar teacher,” who is able to mix humility and creative metaphors in class to help students understand main concepts. He also maintains a calm understanding with students with disabilities.

Underscoring his approachability, most striking for his faculty peers is the steady stream of students seen every day coming to his office. It was noted that on a “slow” day he would see at least four or five students. On busy days, there would be 10 to 12. Another teacher was so impressed with his teaching ability that the teacher sat in on his class for professional development.

His students also noted that “Mr. O,” as they refer to him, spends considerable time helping with student scholarships and even job applications.

Finally, Otsuji also finds time to participate significantly in campus activities as an advisor. He arranges and finds financial support for enrichment activities for students and faculty, such as a recent day of culture, music, free food, art and prizes.

Adam Pack
Professor, psychology, UH Hilo

Adam Pack, a professor of psychology at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo, is regarded by students and colleagues as an outstanding, engaging and enthusiastic professor at the graduate and undergraduate levels, an extremely effective advisor and a wonderful mentor who operates both inside and outside the classroom.

Pack also serves as chair of the Department of Psychology, co-director of the Listening Observatory for Hawaiʻi Ecosystems Bioacoustics laboratory and holds a joint appointment in biology. He is a world-renowned mammal behavior expert with a passion for research. Students are inspired by his teaching, which includes the infusion of relevant examples from his own marine mammal research and the use of whole class experiments to communicate complex material.

Outside the classroom, he joins students on field expeditions where he motivates the entire research team, even under the worst of weather conditions and the roughest seas.

Shane B. Payba
Counselor, UH Maui College

Shane Payba earned a bachelor of arts in psychology from UH Mānoa. Upon graduating, he worked with Kāhi Mōhala and the Department of Human Services Child Welfare Service.

In 1999 he accepted a position at Maui Community College as a counselor for the federally funded TRiO Upward Bound Program. There he honed his counseling skills working with and advising low-income and first-generation high school students. In 2004, Payba joined the college’s counseling department and became its special needs coordinator. For the next two years he served students with disabilities by facilitating academic accommodations.

In 2006 Payba transitioned to his current position as a liberal arts counselor. While holding this position, he has served the college and UH System in many roles, including: UH Maui College STAR representative and builder; Counseling Department director; Running Start coordinator; College Pamantasan Council representative; and co-advisor for the Kabatak Club, a College Filipino student organization.

Payba’s counseling interests and passions involve student recruitment, retention, persistence and transfer into four-year university programs. He is committed and dedicated to serving low-income and first-generation students, and helping students from Hawaiʻi’s local and underrepresented populations attain post-secondary education success.

Georgeanne Purvinis
Assistant Professor, electronic technology, Kauaʻi Community College

Georgeanne Purvinis teaches electronics, engineering, optics and programming at Kauaʻi CC. She is a former senior research scientist with Battelle Memorial Institute, telecom engineer and has served as an engineer with Lockheed Martin Orlando Aerospace.

Purvinis has been awarded grants from NASA, NOAA, DOE and HDOA to provide students with high impact experiential learning opportunities. She is also a beekeeper and the principal investigator of the apiary project at Kauaʻi CC. In the Daniel K. Inouye Technology building on campus, Purvinis fosters a place for students to hang out, work on projects or school work, play (video games!) eat and socialize.

Prior to joining Kauaʻi CC in 2012, she was a senior research scientist specializing in optics and photonics. During that time she volunteered as a judge in science fairs, as guest speaker at colleges and as a role model to high school students on “Shadow a Scientist” work day.

Scott C. Sinnett
Associate Professor, psychology, UH Mānoa

Scott Sinnett is an associate professor in the Department of Psychology who is known for his rigor in teaching some of the more difficult courses in cognitive science and memory.

Described as being easy to approach and supportive of student learning, Sinnett is known for delivering exemplary lectures, expanding his pedagogical methods to visual demonstrations that are mindful and diverse and utilizing current social trends, humor and intriguing research to encourage class participation, even in the largest of classes.

Sinnett elevates energy levels and fosters highly collaborative learning environments. He also provides an extensive network of support and guidance on how to develop class projects and activities, effectively run a classroom, deal with unexpected obstacles and develop a course of one’s own from the ground up.

Cheri Souza
Counselor, Kapiʻolani Community College

As a counselor for the Department of Health Sciences/Emergency Medical Services and the advisor to the Board of Student Publications at Kapiʻolani CC, Cheri Souza supplements classroom learning by helping students engage in co-curricular activities. She is student-focused and motivational, helping students to grow academically as well as socially and emotionally. During workshops and leadership activities, Souza works on eliminating perceived barriers by sharing experiences about herself and asking students to do the same. The result is a genuine dialogue of trust and mutual respect.

Souza’s persona is that of a confidante and friend. One student commented that, “Cheri remembers me and my situation. I always felt like I would have to remind Cheri of my situation but she always knew where we left off and was always clear with what I needed to do next. I always leave knowing way more than before I walked in.”

Souza’s peers applaud her strong work ethic and professionalism. She believes in the kaizen method of continuous improvement. In discipline and department reviews, she examined student and program learning outcomes and helped to create and implement recommendations for professional improvement. She assesses her own effectiveness through surveys and by soliciting student feedback.

Carleen S. Yokotake
Professor, speech, Leeward Community College

Carleen Yokotake has served Leeward CC as an outstanding teacher for more than 20 years. She commits herself wholeheartedly to everything she undertakes and never hesitates to research and implement new instructional techniques, activities and assignments. Described by her students as “awesome,” she approaches her classes with humility and an incomparable sense of humor, challenging and engaging her students.

Described by her peers as “a knowledgeable, innovative, charismatic and compassionate instructor, leader and colleague,” Yokotake is an influential mentor to other faculty members, often presenting at professional development workshops to share useful and relevant teaching strategies with colleagues across the system. She helped develop and coordinate the mid-semester classroom assessment program, which gives faculty an opportunity to receive input from students to improve student learning outcomes by the end of the semester.

Yokotake has also recently developed, planned and implemented the new lecturer training program. She served as the speech discipline coordinator for 14 years and served on the division personnel committee for seven years.

With her tremendous list of accomplishments, Yokotake is truly an invaluable contributor to the college, her division and her colleagues.

Please contact your campus chancellor’s office for more information about the application process.

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