HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Richard Ogawa wants students to enjoy education. He knows it's happening when he sees it.
“That look in their eyes, their face, just the excitement that comes from learning,” he said.
Ogawa is Kanoelani Elementary School’s STEM Coordinator. He helps other teachers execute their ideas for teaching science, technology, engineering and math
"In this day and age STEM is important because a lot of it is not memorizing facts, but being able to think on the spot, being able to problem solve," he said.
Under his guidance, the school established a coding club, robotics program, STEM lab and a maker’s space where students let their creative juices flow.
"I think the kids are understanding there's more to life than just the four walls of a classroom," principal Stacie Kunihisa said. "They're able to explore, engage with it, and be innovative and come up with their own ideas."
One of Ogawa's first projects was a large aquaponics system that conveys the concept of the Hawaiian ahupuaa.
His progressive ideas were recently recognized with a Presidential Excellence Award.
Ogawa is one of four Hawaii teachers named to the 2019 national list that also included Daphne Okunaga of Pearl City High School, Daniel Taira of Lehua Elementary School and Nel Venzon Jr. of Mililani High School.
Ogawa, 41, has been a teacher for 13 years.
“I think he really cares about what we’re learning about and he’s really engaged with us,” said student Landon Espiritu.
Kanoelani’s slogan is, “Learn more. Care more. Be more.”
"It pushes us to never sit still and never be complacent with mediocrity," Kunihisa said.
Ogawa said the presidential award honors the entire school.
“This award is all of us,” he said.