Six University of Hawaiʻi teachers have been recognized with the Frances Davis Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching—John Hamilton, Nyle S. Kauweloa, Monica LaBriola, Denise Nelson-Hurwitz, John Signor and Mark A.J. Wilding.
This award recognizes dedication and demonstrated excellence of teachers of undergraduate students. It was established as a memorial to the late Frances Davis, who taught mathematics at Leeward Community College and UH Mānoa for 19 years.
John Hamilton is an instructor in physics and astronomy at UH Hilo. His students note his genuine love for astronomy and a true passion for sharing it with them.
Hamilton tirelessly excels at helping students gain real-life experiences through his work with various projects, including the Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems and the UH Hilo Robotics Team. Students find these experiences, such as volunteering with NASA scientists for live experiments, to be incredibly valuable in advancing their careers by connecting them with scientists from prominent space agencies.
His students say his teaching has shown them that learning is much more than equations and memorizing facts; it is about the work they put in and the skills they develop along the way.
Nyle “Sky” Kauweloa’s approach to academic and intellectual curiosity is matched by his concern and interest in the stories of students. A PhD student in the communication and information sciences program, he is interested in digital communications and gaming.
Kauweloa enjoys challenging students to think about how technologies will shape the future. Students who have taken his course at the School of Communications describe him as open, caring and inquisitive while being intellectually provocative and imaginative.
Colleagues admire his ability to marry diverse topics in the field of information and communication technologies to everyday concerns related to privacy, security and digital surveillance. In the end it’s about crafting knowledge and teaching that becomes meaningful. As one student noted, “When Sky related current events and articles, it gave the subject matter context. This was nice because it showed that the concepts we were learning are important and not just theory.”
Monica LaBriola is an assistant professor of history at UH West Oʻahu, where she teaches courses in Pacific Islands, world and U.S. history. She completed her PhD in history and MA in Pacific Islands studies at UH Mānoa.
Before coming to Hawaiʻi for graduate work, LaBriola spent three years in the Marshall Islands where she developed a passion for Pacific Islands history and culture. She is currently completing a manuscript about land and power on Likiep Atoll in the Marshall Islands.
Her students have stated that she is an engaging professor and that she fills her classroom with energy. “She is a passionate professor that successfully teaches and guides her students to see the ‘bigger picture’ of their own lives and the historical context that has laid out the foundations of the life we live now.” Students love that she is willing to work with them in the journey of understanding, through difficult and controversial topics.
Denise Nelson-Hurwitz’s path to UH Mānoa was a circuitous yet purposeful journey that also led her back to her roots.
As a graduate research assistant mentored by Mānoa faculty, Nelson-Hurwitz discovered her love for teaching. She is described as an excellent teacher with a deep knowledge and compassion for students and their learning. She is credited with the development of the newly instituted undergraduate public health program in 2014 and the capstone series in which students present quality projects on community-based service learning and research.
She seeks innovative approaches that allow her students to experience their education through evidence-based student engagement and team-based experiential learning techniques. The influence and impact of her inspired teaching extends beyond the Mānoa campus and into local and national communities, conferences and institutions. Other universities are seeking to replicate the models she created for introductory and capstone courses in public health studies.
Assistant professor, music, Leeward Community College
“The instructor was amazing…This is by far the best college course I have ever taken.”
These words are typical of the outstanding student evaluations given John Signor, assistant professor of music at Leeward Community College. Creativity and commitment to the collaborative process are essential elements of Signor’s teaching.
Signor explains, “My profound love for music accompanied by what it has to offer us, is the driving force that compels me to share it with fervor and integrity. My vocation as a musician is deeply connected to my calling as a teacher. I consider myself truly blessed to have the opportunity to study and teach this uniquely beautiful language.”
His music classes effectively foster creativity, self-confidence and shared problem solving. Signor cultivates a community of learners who strive for resourcefulness and cooperation.
Signor’s teaching philosophy is rooted in student engagement and creative collaboration, maintaining a flexible approach and a focus on global perspectives. He generates a wide variety of performance opportunities for his students, in addition to providing his own talents. From the culturally significant Liliʻu Project, celebrating the compositions of Queen Liliʻuokalani, to scoring local films and theatrical productions, Signor’s contributions are always selflessly given and joyously received.
Mark Wilding is a PhD student in the Department of Second Language Studies where he has taught a variety of undergraduate courses over the last 5 years.
His achievements as a teacher stem from a real passion for language learning, a genuine empathy for his students, and a vocation for helping others learn in a fun and ʻohana-like environment. His department chair shared, “We are not sure if he is fluent in as many as 12, but he certainly spends time practicing and extending his command of more languages than there are professors in the department.”
Wilding regularly corresponds with other polyglots and takes a new language course every semester at UH Mānoa, which gives him a deeper insight into the many challenges faced by language learners and teachers at different stages. With glowing course feedback every semester, Wilding is considered a role model teacher by many students.
Please contact your campus chancellor’s office for more information about the application process.