National award recognizes pair of 'exceptional' Hawaii teachers

National award recognizes pair of 'exceptional' Hawaii teachers
Updated: Feb. 2, 2017 at 6:02 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A pair of Oahu teachers were the surprise recipients of a prestigious national award on Thursday -- as well as the $25,000 dollar check that comes with it.

The Milken Educator Award has been called the "Oscars of Teaching." The surprise announcement, which was made in front of a full assembly at each teacher's school, was kept a complete secret until the teachers were identified today.

This morning in Pearl City, at Momilani Elementary School, the first teacher to receive the coveted award was 3rd grade math teacher Masaru Uchino.

"It was a total surprise. I had no idea," he said. "I don't teach for the sake of winning awards and things. I just teach for the kids."

The Milken Educator Award recognizes exceptional elementary and secondary school teachers across the country. Mr. Uchino, who's originally from California also writes, produces, and directs the school's 3rd grade annual drama production. Momilani Elementary School is his first teaching job, he said.

The second Milken Educator Award went to Kelly Sutcliffe, a 4th grade teacher at President Thomas Jefferson Elementary School. Sutcliffe often uses mnemonic devices with her students to help them remember; she also has students study together to present their work, and let's her students help teach her class.

"They say teaching is an thankless profession, and I come in every day and I do my job and I work and you just don't think anyone's noticing." Sutcliffe said.

"I think they're making a profound difference in the lives of the young people and that's what we want our teachers to do. We want the public to recognize the critical role that they're playing," said Lowell Milken, the Chairman of the Milken Family Foundation.

And as for the money? Sutcliffes said she plans to save the cash, while Uchino says he'll use the money to help pay for his upcoming wedding.

"No, she has no idea," Uchino said, when asked whether his fiance knew about the payday. "She was wondering what the assembly was about it and I told her I had no idea. She's going to be just as surprised as I am."

Both Uchino and Sutcliffe join more than 2,700 teachers across the nation who have received the award. With today's two teachers, Hawaii now has 75 Milken Educator Awardees.

This is 30th year the Milken Family Foundation has given out the award. So far, more than $138 million in funding--including $68 million in individual $25,000 awards--have been given out. The honor will be presented at up to 35 schools this 2016-17 season.

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