Kailua Intermediate teacher named state Teacher of the Year

Published: Oct. 27, 2012 at 12:53 AM HST|Updated: Oct. 27, 2012 at 3:11 PM HST
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From left: Governor Neil Abercrombie, Victoria Coffin, Tracie Higashi, Paul Holwegner, 2013...
From left: Governor Neil Abercrombie, Victoria Coffin, Tracie Higashi, Paul Holwegner, 2013 State Teacher of the Year Karen Kutsunai, Aaron Loque, Amoreena Nestman, Marcus Pottenger, and Hawaii DOE Deputy Superintendent Ronn Nozoe.
2013 Teacher of the Year Karen Kutsunai
2013 Teacher of the Year Karen Kutsunai

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A teacher from Kailua Intermediate School was named Hawaii's 2013 State Teacher of the Year during a ceremony at Washington Place on Friday.

Karen Kutsunai, who has taught at the school since 1999, was honored along with six other district Teachers of the Year in the announcement made by Gov. Neil Abercrombie and Deputy Superintendent Ronn Nozoe.

Kutsunai has a bachelor's degree in Secondary Education with a Social Studies emphasis from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. She also earned a Master of Education in Curriculum Studies with a Middle Level emphasis at UH.

Also honored at the ceremony were the following teachers (all information provided by the state Department of Education):

VICTORIA COFFIN – Leeward Oahu District, Keoneula Elementary: Victoria's goal as a teacher is "to build a community" in her classroom. At Keoneula, she has been a catalyst for bringing teachers, students, and parents together.

Victoria started a Kids Initiating Change service club as one way to make learning meaningful. She energetically leads hands-on projects through which students and the community have promoted traffic safety, recycling, and energy conservation.

This summer, Victoria attended a Fulbright Japan-U.S. Teacher Exchange Program for Education in Sustainability Development in Hiroshima, Japan, to share her initiatives and learn from other educators. Victoria offers unlimited support and encouragement to engage students and ensure they all succeed.

TRACIE HIGASHI – Central Oahu District, Hickam Elementary: Tracie believes fine artists have a responsibility to serve their school and community through their talents. At Hickam Elementary, Tracie's passion and commitment to excellence is evident in breathtaking student performances.

Under her guidance, students perform in a 9/11 Remembrance Assembly, Hickam Officers Spouses Club, and the Radford Complex Music Festival. Tracie has worked tirelessly to establish partnerships with the Hawaii Opera Theatre, and the Honolulu Academy of Arts, where students interact with Academy teachers and produce wonderful art pieces.

Tracie has included all grade levels in the music program, and adapted the curriculum for students with severe disabilities. From the direction to lighting and set design, Tracie always puts in the extra time for students. Tracie exemplifies the highest standards to students, faculty, and the community.

PAUL HOLWEGNER – Kauai District, Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle: Paul brings science concepts to life using 21st century resources that help speak to the digital language of our students. He engages students with technology in a game setting, or creates a crime scene "CSI" lesson that makes the mysteries of science relevant, understandable, and practical.

His teaching philosophy is simple: education is necessary for people to thrive in a modern society.

Paul can be regularly seen training colleagues on the latest technology, helping students in the afterschool program, organizing career day, attending fundraisers, and speaking at parent nights.

Paul models responsibility, character, and work ethic, and he allows students to take ownership of their learning.

AARON LOQUE – Maui District, Maui Waena Intermediate: As a high school student, Aaron would spend his summers working with children at local youth programs. In college, he volunteered his time reading to grade school students and coaching at baseball clinics. When it came time for Aaron to pick a career, teaching was a natural choice.

This highly-organized Social Studies teacher is constantly refining and sharing effective teaching practices with Maui Waena's curriculum leadership team. Aaron supervises summer credit recovery classes, develops schoolwide transition plans for students, and serves on the accreditation committee.

In class, Aaron establishes clear expectations for students, who in turn feel prepared and confident that they can achieve daily goals.

AMOREENA NESTMAN – Hawaii District, Kealakehe Elementary: Amoreena's love for teaching began when she was just a second grader. After being asked to peer tutor other students, she says she "felt a spark within my soul."

An English language learner inclusion teacher, Amoreena says her biggest strength is being part of the school's Instructional Leadership Team. She views every classroom as an extended family, which makes team collaboration key for students to feel supported and be risk takers at each grade.

Amoreena focuses on character building by incorporating the values of respect and responsibility in and outside classroom walls. Her passion and positive attitude is contagious and a powerful influence for students and staff.

MARCUS POTTENGER – Honolulu District, Hokulani Elementary: As a boy scout, Marcus loved to be a fire tender – the one in charge of starting the fire and keeping it going. As a teacher, he believes each child has a unique spark, and his job is to nurture that spark into a flame.

Described as a driven teamplayer who is always smiling, Marcus measures the reward of teaching by the success of his students, the growth of the staff, and the continued improvement of the school community.

He is an enthusiastic advisor to the Student Council and Yearbook Committee; a member of the School Community Council; the curriculum coordinator for grades 3 through 5; the AVID coordinator; the school's webmaster, and the master of ceremonies for student assemblies. As one coworker remarked, "His positive attitude is infectious, and his demeanor is comforting. Marcus makes everyone around him, teacher or student, better."

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