University of Hawaiʻi alumna Lori Kwee was named the 2021 Hawaiʻi State Teacher of the Year during a virtual awards ceremony on October 23. An Ala Wai Elementary School teacher for the past 20 years, Kwee earned a professional diploma and BEd in elementary education from UH Mānoa’s College of Education (COE).
As a finalist for this award, Kwee was the Kaimukī-McKinley-Roosevelt Complex area winner. Several other complex area winners are also COE alumni, including: Kristen Eastvedt, Shannon Kealoha, Joanna Kobayashi, Keala Nunuha, Ashley Oyama, Elaine Higa and Heidi Jenkins. These teachers were selected from more than 13,000 educators within the Hawaiʻi State Department of Education.
Following in her mom’s footsteps, Kwee says that it has been her dream to engage children in discovering the joys of learning. “Betty, my mom, was a teacher and also a graduate of UH Mānoa. As a young girl, I saw the pleasure she took as an educator at Ala Wai Elementary School. Her positive influence steered me to my path into elementary education, leading me to Ala Wai School as a full circle in life,” Kwee said.
As the State Teacher of the Year, Kwee will represent Hawaiʻi in the National Teacher of the Year program.
More on the complex area winners
Eastvedt, the Castle-Kahuku Complex area winner, holds an MEd in educational psychology from COE. A teacher at Hauʻula Elementary School for the past 17 years, she says she always knew that becoming a teacher was her destiny.
Baldwin-Kekaulike-Maui Complex area winner, Kealoha, received her professional diploma and BEd in elementary education. She teaches eighth grade math at Maui Waena Intermediate School where she has worked since 2001.
Kobayashi is the ʻAiea-Moanalua-Radford Complex area winner and has been a teacher at Moanalua High School for 10 years. Having earned an MEdT in secondary education, she says helping students understand how they can make positive impacts on our communities is what drew her to the field of education.
A teacher at Nānāikapono Elementary School since 2006, Nunuha is the Nānākuli-Waiʻanae Complex area winner. She holds both a BEd in elementary education and MEd in curriculum studies from COE.
Oyama, who earned a BEd in elementary education, is the Honokaʻa-Kealakehe-Kohala-Konawaena Complex area winner. A fourth grade teacher at Konawaena Elementary School, she says she was inspired by her own third and fourth grade teachers to one day impact and change the lives of students.
Higa, who holds a professional diploma and BEd in secondary education, is the Kaʻu–Keaʻau-Pahoa Complex area winner (Hawaiʻi District Office).
Jenkins, the Hāna-Lahainaluna-Lanaʻi–Molokaʻi Complex area winner (Maui District Office), has a BEd in elementary education.