The Frances Davis Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching for a faculty and a graduate assistant recognizes dedication and demonstrated excellence as teachers of undergraduate students. It was established as a memorial to the late Frances Davis, who taught mathematics at Leeward Community College and the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa for 19 years. Laurie James, Tiffany Kawaguchi, Heewon Kwon, Curia Namba, A. Zachary Trimble and Lissa Tsutsumi received the award for 2021.
Laurie James, UH West Oʻahu
Laurie James is an assistant professor of math education at the University of Hawaiʻi–West Oʻahu. Since joining the education division in August 2016, she has become a co-facilitator of the Math Teachers’ Circle of Hawaiʻi (MaTCH) sessions that promote inquiry-based investigations, intrinsic motivation and hands-on pedagogical approaches. Professional educators participate in the MaTCH meetings multiple times each semester solving mathematical problems so they can anticipate where their students might struggle with mathematical concepts.
James’ students have stated that she is one of the more energetic professors they have ever had. “Dr. James is the math teacher that I wish I could have had while I was in elementary school. She makes learning math fun and embodies the concept of genuinely loving being a teacher with everything she is,” said one student.
Since 2017, James has collaborated with Grant Toyooka, the Leilehua Complex resource manager in various STEM and robotics events. She helps to create student-friendly activities through mathematical challenges, the engineering design process, make-and-take stations and robotic quests.
Tiffany Kawaguchi, Kapiʻolani CC
Tiffany Kawaguchi serves as the program director and academic fieldwork coordinator in the Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) Program at Kapiʻolani Community College. Kawaguchi is an occupational therapist with more than 20 years of experience in acute care, inpatient and subacute rehabilitation, mental health, administration and education.
In 2015, Kawaguchi started a federally funded pro bono clinic for the OTA Program. The mission of the clinic is to utilize meaningful experiences and intentional practice opportunities to help students access and then apply critical pieces of information to the occupational therapy process while delivering high quality occupational therapy services to clients living with injury, illness and/or disability. In 2016, Kawaguchi received the Laura N. Dowsett OT of the Year Award from the OT Association of Hawaii.
She was selected to represent Kapiʻolani CC in the inaugural Hawaiʻi Association for Career & Technical Education Emerging CTE Leaders Program in 2018. She is also an advisory board member for the Hawaiʻi Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs’ Regulated Industries Complaints Office for OT practice, and an education committee member for the OT Association of Hawaii.
Heewon Kwon, UH Mānoa
Heewon Kwon is a social and cultural psychology PhD student in the UH Mānoa College of Social Sciences. Kwon has extended her passion in statistics to teaching introductory statistics courses in the psychology department. Her teaching starts from understanding the difficulty many students face when they first learn statistics. Therefore, she focuses on clarity in content, expectations and educational goals.
Her class materials are full of illustrations and demonstrations explaining theories and calculation processes. These processes are embedded in larger real-life research questions so that students find themselves thinking about how to use these tools in research. She hopes that students will find statistics is not an obstacle to overcome, but is a useful tool that will help them become researchers.
Kwon is interested in culture and multicultural individuals and plans to extend her research by combining her research interest with advanced statistical techniques. She hopes to continue sharing her excitement about and dedication to research with students through teaching.
Ruria Namba, Hawaiʻi CC–Pālamanui
Ruria “Luria” Namba is a biology instructor at the Hawaiʻi Community College–Pālamanui in Kona. A caring, knowledgeable and innovative teacher, Namba is described by a colleague as “the catalyst for the overall success of many of our students” in the science and pre-nursing programs.
She builds a sense of community, and students seek out her classes because of her student-focused teaching. “Taking a class from Dr. Namba generates positive feedback—the more you learn, the more you want to learn,” one student stated.
Namba is devoted to fostering strong scientific knowledge and reasoning in students, with an emphasis on understanding the process of discovery. She uses innovative teaching methods, including place-based science education that builds an awareness and a deep appreciation for Hawaiian culture while teaching cutting-edge science.
An active member of the campus, Namba inspires others with her commitment to students, the college and the community. She has taught at Hawaiʻi CC since 2016.
A. Zachary Trimble, UH Mānoa
A. Zachary Trimble is an associate professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering in the UH Mānoa College of Engineering. He is an inspiration to his students to whom he has been an extraordinary mentor and teacher.
A colleague shared, “In truth, I wish we could 3D print a dozen more Zacs. Such is the inspiring effect that he has had on faculty and staff alike.”
A student wrote, “Professor Trimble’s course reminded me why I wanted to be an engineer and raised my own expectations for the quality of my work,” validating a core value in Trimble’s teaching that students discover for themselves a lasting desire to explore a subject on their own.
Trimble behaves as if he were the chief technology officer of an engineering company and treats students as newly hired engineers. Students report on their current progress, which requires them to take ownership of their projects, transitioning to defining their own tasks and really understanding their significance in the context of each project.
Lissa Tsutsumi, UH Hilo
Lissa Tsutsumi is an assistant professor of applied agricultural science and biotechnology at UH Hilo. Since 2019, she has served as the equine program coordinator with the College of Agriculture, Forestry, and Natural Resource Management. She is responsible for the care protocols for the animals at the UH Agriculture Farm, and serves as the advisor for animal science students and for the Hawaiʻi Island Pre-Vet Club.
Her teaching highlights include developing five animal science courses and an equine certificate, and developing an equine program, which consists of seven horses that are used for riding lessons and course demonstrations and activities.
“I treat my students as adults and future professionals and community members,” Tsutsumi said. “My task is to enable my students to have the necessary skills and knowledge so that they can make informed decisions and take the necessary action to succeed in real life situations.”
Tsutsumi received her BA in kinesiology and exercise sciences from UH Hilo and her PhD in pharmaceutical sciences from the Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy.