Building a career at her alma mater: Meet the newest Hawaii Teacher of the Year

A Leilehua High School teacher has just been named the 2024 Hawaii State Teacher of the Year.
Published: Oct. 3, 2023 at 5:18 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 3, 2023 at 6:04 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A Leilehua High School teacher has just been named the 2024 Hawaii State Teacher of the Year.

Jackie Freitas is a natural resources teacher at her alma mater in Wahiawa. She’s been teaching at the school for her entire 13-year career.

“I just love what I do. My passion comes out. I do everything for my students, everything I do is for my students,” Freitas said. “This is a very rewarding experience. Thank you. But I just wanna show that any teacher can do this. Really, I had no expectations of anything.”

She was presented with the state’s top teaching award at Washington Place on Tuesday afternoon by Gov. Josh Green and DOE Superintendent Keith Hayashi.

The honor is presented every year to a teacher selected from more than 13,000 educators statewide.

Freitas was among 15 complex area teachers of the year and the charter school teacher of the year who were also recognized during the ceremony.

As a natural resources teacher and Future Farmers of America advisor at Leilehua High, she can often be found at the school’s 3.5 acre farm lab, where students can learn the latest in agriculture technology and prepare for a future in the industry.

Her constant work and care for her students and the community is seen most in how she is affectionately known as “Aunty Jackie.”

“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.”

As a reward for all her hard work, she was gifted a one-year lease of a 2023 Chevrolet Trailblazer and an additional $1,000 award to her monetary gift.

Freitas will now go on to represent Hawaii in the national Teacher of the Year Program in Washington, D.C.