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Jackie and others taking a picture with her award.
2024 Hawaiʻi State Teacher of the Year Jackie Freitas is a 2011 UH West Oʻahu graduate.

University of Hawaiʻi West Oʻahu alumna Jackie Freitas was named the 2024 Hawaiʻi State Teacher of the Year by the Hawaiʻi State Department of Education (HIDOE) at an awards ceremony on October 3.

The Hawaiʻi State Teacher of the Year honor is presented annually to a classroom teacher selected from more than 13,000 HIDOE educators. Freitas received the award from Gov. Josh Green and state Superintendent Keith Hayashi.

Freitas is the natural resources teacher and Future Farmers of America advisor at Leilehua High School—her alma mater and where she has taught her entire 13-year career. Leilehua’s Natural Resources program runs one of the state’s largest high school agricultural farms.

Freitas graduated in spring 2011 from UH West Oʻahu with a bachelor of education in elementary education. She said UH West Oʻahu’s education program helped shape her into the teacher she is today.

“I gained a lot of classroom management, differentiated instruction and was in a great cohort of teachers that I was able to work alongside to gain ideas and classroom practices from,” Freitas said.

Freitas was recognized for keeping up with the newest technology and techniques in natural resources so that she can not only implement them into her lessons, but also lead professional development workshops for colleagues.

“I and my colleagues remember her as an outstanding teacher candidate with tremendous leadership potential,” UH West O‘ahu Education Division Chair Mary Heller said. “She has the gift of selfless ‘giving back,’ and her stellar work at Leilehua High School’s CTE (Career and Technical Education) sustainability program is a testament to that fact. Bravo Jackie!”

Freitas also helped to establish the school’s “Buy 1, Give 1” program where students curate a produce box to sell within the community, and helped to set up the school’s now annual fall festival that features the CTE students’ work.

“It’s clear that Jackie’s passion and innovative teaching methods allow students to reach new horizons,” Hayashi said. “She is a prime example of a teacher leader in our state—pioneering new curriculum to ensure that students are globally competitive, initiating community programs that connect student work with real-world challenges, and connecting with colleagues to support future teacher leaders. We are grateful to have teachers like Jackie, who do so much to help elevate our Hawaiʻi public school system.”

Freitas was among 15 teachers who were selected as finalists. One of the other finalists, Waiʻanae Elementary School teacher Donna Soriano representing the Nānākuli-Waiʻanae Complex Area is also a UH West Oʻahu alumna who graduated in fall 2014.

Freitas offered a message to UH West Oʻahu’s current teacher candidates: “Once you are in the classroom and you are able to put everything that you have learned into action, you are able to see what does and does not work for your students.”

She continued, “Take the time to build a community within your classroom, get to know your students and what they can offer within your classroom, as well as allow students the opportunity to learn beyond your four walls of the classroom. There are many ways to incorporate instruction other than just lecturing and worksheets, but rather come up with ways to incorporate labs, hands-on instruction, or different types of technology.”

Freitas will represent Hawaiʻi in the National Teacher of the Year program. A national winner will be named in the spring.

For the full story visit UH West Oʻahu’s Ka Puna O Kaloʻi.

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