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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, October 19, 2001

Waialua Elementary's Hirota named Teacher of Year

By James Gonser
Advertiser Staff Writer

Waialua Elementary School teacher Jill Hirota was named state Teacher of the Year yesterday before a cheering crowd of about 100 friends, family members and fellow educators.

Jill Hirota of Waialua Elementary School gets a nose-rub greeting from Rika Hotere, a performer with the Polynesian Cultural Center. Yesterday, Hirota received Hawai'i's top teacher award, an honor sponsored by the center.

Cory Lum • The Honolulu Advertiser

Hirota, a second-grade teacher who has been at Waialua for 12 years, was selected from seven district teachers of the year during a Board of Education meeting at Kalani High School.

"Seeing the students studying and growing and learning is the best part of teaching," Hirota said. "At times as a teacher you are exhausted, but you just jump up and do what you have to do."

Her husband, Clark, proudly stood beside his wife during a Maori dance ceremony presented by the Polynesian Cultural Center, which has sponsored the award for 16 years. Clark said she works until after midnight nightly and is out of the house before 7 a.m.

"The kids are the most important thing to her," he said. "They are her first priority."

Hirota is also one of the first five Hawai'i public school teachers to join the prestigious ranks of nationally certified teachers.

"When telling my students about the award ... I said it is not only about me. It is about all the teachers, my husband and parents, the students and their parents," Hirota said. "What ever I've done it is because of all the people I've worked with to achieve these goals."

Hirota is one of the first five Hawai'i public school teachers to become a nationally certified teacher.

Cory Lum • The Honolulu Advertiser

Hirota and the six district teachers of the year were handed the keys and one-year leases to new cars. Each district teacher received $500 from the Polynesian Cultural Center, and Hirota received $1,000.

They are: Aileen Dang, Honolulu; Lani Chang, Windward; Linda Uehara, Leeward; Helen Kobayashi, Hawai'i; Janet Sato, Maui; and Leah Aiwohi, Kaua'i.

The seven cars for the seven teachers were provided by the Hawai'i Automobile Dealers Association, Volkswagen Dealers of Hawai'i, Nissan Hawai'i, Theo Davies Volvo and Big Island Honda, King Auto Center, Honda Windward, Island Honda and Pflueger Acura.

Correction: Leah Aiwohi is the Kaua'i District teacher of the year. Another person's name was incorrectly listed in a previous version of this story.