HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hundreds of students cheered wildly Tuesday as Farmers Insurance surprised Niu Valley Middle School music teacher Zachary Morita with a $100,000 grant.
"My dream actually came true. All that hard work really paid off," he said.
Morita's proposal to create the Niu Valley Music Olympic Invitational competition was one of 15 finalists in Farmers' Thank America's Teachers Dream Big Teacher Challenge.
His idea drew enough online votes to finish in the top five among teachers from across the U.S.
"I was giving daily email reminders," Morita said. "Sometimes we would go on social media and we would just get the word out and remind people every day to get to their computers and start voting."
The money will buy new instruments and recording equipment so students from across the state can compete on a level playing field.
"Zachary's project not only includes Niu Valley but it includes musicians from all over -- professionals and disadvantaged students," principal Laura Ahn said.
Morita believes his accomplishment is a win for everyone at his school.
"That's what I want to share with my students. if they work hard, they have something in mind, that they go for it. It can happen," he said.
“Farmers Insurance Hawaii is just is so thankful for all the teachers and students, and for everything that the teachers do for our students here in Hawaii. We hope more and more teachers will apply for this grant,” Farmers Insurance’s Melanie Joseph said.
Morita was motivated to enter the competition by the success of last year’s Hawaii winner, Stephenson Middle School school STEM teacher Trish Morgan.
Other teachers will now look to him.
“I hope that I inspire other teachers and students to pursue their dreams as well,” he said.