MILILANI, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - An outstanding Hawaii educator just scored a $25,000 award! Jana Fukada received the surprise paycheck from the Milken Family Foundation in front of hundreds of students and teachers at Mililani Uka Elementary on Monday.
"I never expected it would be me. I'm just in awe," said Fukada.
Fukada started teaching kindergarten at Mililani Uka Elementary in 2007. She switched jobs this year and became a curriculum coach for grades K-2. Lt. Governor Shan Tsutsui and Deputy Superintendent Ronn Nozoe helped to present the prestigious award.
"You are not just on the map here in the state of Hawaii. This national award means now that the rest of the country knows about all the wonderful things that are happening," said Tsutsui.
"I love working with the kids. I love it when they get it. They are so excited. They're like, 'I did it! I did it!' And I'm like, 'Yeah, you did it! You got it!' When they figure it out on their own, you can see their eyes light up," Fukada said.
DOE officials pointed out that Fukada developed assessments for the Hawaii Common Core Standards. Recent data from her class also showed high student proficiency in many subjects. She even offered after-school tutoring for children who needed extra help.
"It's tough to be an educator, but everything we do makes a difference and just keep on going, keep trying your best, keep learning, keep learning from each other and the kids," Fukada said.
72 Hawaii educators have now received Milken Educator Awards which recognize outstanding talent. When asked about her plans for the $25,000 prize, Fukada said she needed a reliable car. She also had another idea.
"I actually have a huge loan to pay off for graduate school so probably that. That's what my dad wants me to say!" joked Fukada.
Fukada received a master's degree in elementary education from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. She is now earning her doctorate from the University of Southern California.