Laura Fukumoto of Aliamanu Elementary and Dave Morishige of Mililani Mauka Elementary are the latest Hawaii public school teachers to be named recipients of the prestigious Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. The award is given annually to outstanding mathematics and science educators from across the country. The White House made the formal announcement last month.
The winners are chosen by a panel, which includes distinguished scientists, mathematics and educators following an initial selection process at the state level. There were 102 teachers awarded – they represent all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Department of Defense Education Activity. Each recipient receives a $10,000 prize award from the National Science Foundation to be used at his or her discretion. Also, a ceremony honoring the winners in Washington, D.C. is being planned for later this year.
Laura Fukumoto has spent her entire career at Aliamanu and admits that as a beginning teacher, mathematics was her weakest subject. That is until Fukumoto realized, in her words, she was “teaching arithmetic, and not mathematics.” Fukumoto focused on making math relevant through her lessons when she discovered many students, parents and even teachers disliked the subject and felt it was too abstract. She is a 5th grade math teacher who seizes the potential of each day to teach children how to think and to visualize.
“I see a genius inside each of my students, a genius that I do my very best to spark,” said Fukumoto. “When I help them through some pretty tough math, see the twinkle in their eyes, and hear their “Wow”s and the “Aha”s, I know that I chose the very best profession, one that I love and enjoy.”
After graduating from Farrington High, she went on to the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
Dave Morishige has been teaching at Mililani Mauka for the last nine of the 23 years he’s been an educator. He currently teaches science to students in kindergarten through fifth grade, and also serves as the school’s science resource teacher. After taking on the resource position, Morishige says he felt a renewed interest in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM. Robotic programs he initiated at the school have earned statewide acclaim.
A graduate of Moanalua High and the University of Hawaii at Manoa (bachelor’s and master’s), Morishige says he has always had a passion for math and science because he enjoys learning and discovering how things work.
“The most rewarding part of my job is to see the joy on the children’s faces as they discover new things and the appreciation they show by saying a simple ‘thank you for teaching me’,” continued Morishige.
“Laura and Dave are two of the finest examples of educators that Hawaii has to offer,” said Ronn Nozoe, deputy superintendent for the Hawaii State Department of Education. “They are true heroes in our children’s lives, nurturing the love of math and science at the elementary levels, and laying the foundation for future successes.”