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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, May 4, 2006

Two Hawai'i teachers win top award

Advertiser Staff

Loren Ayresman

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Jeanine Nakakura

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A Honolulu teacher of gifted and talented students and a Maui math teacher this week received the 2005 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.

Jeanine Nakakura, a resource teacher for the McKinley complex in the Honolulu district, and Loren Ayresman, a King Kekaulike High School teacher, were among 100 seventh- to 12th-grade educators two from each state recognized this week at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., for excellence in teaching, devotion to learning needs of students and upholding high professional standards.

Success in the classroom is about teachers guiding their students' learning, Ayresman said in a news release.

"Students need a teacher who is not only knowledgeable about the current research-based teaching techniques, but also willing to change their teaching style according to what is effective for their students," he said.

Ayresman, who described his teaching style as "student-centered," added that the most important part of teaching mathematics is to make math relevant to the lives of students. "By teaching mathematics in a way that is integrated with other disciplines, and teaching content that is not ordinarily covered in high school, my students feel empowered to be successful in mathematics and successful in life."

Nakakura maintained that effective learning means linking science to the real world.

"I try to make my science classes accessible to my students by relating the subject matter to their everyday lives," Nakakura said in a news release. "For example, in one lesson students will study how driving a car is related to Newton's Laws, momentum, energy and motion. In another, we will discuss why some people are far-sighted and others are near-sighted.

"I believe that the more students do for themselves, the more they will remember. I expect my students to be active learners by listening to lectures, participating in group discussions, working together on lab activities and doing a project at the end of the year."

The Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching were established by Congress in 1983 and are administered for the White House by the National Science Foundation. Each year the program recognizes outstanding mathematics and science teachers from across the United States and four U.S. jurisdictions: Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, Department of Defense Education Activity schools and, as a group, the territories of American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, and the Virgin Islands.

In even-numbered years, the award is given to elementary teachers (grades K-6); in odd-numbered years, secondary teachers (grades 7-12) are recognized.

This year, award winners received a citation signed by President Bush, a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation, a trip to Washington, D.C., to attend this week's series of recognition events and professional development opportunities, and gifts from sponsors of the program.

Among other qualifications, nominees must be full-time employees of their school districts with at least five years of mathematics and/or science teaching experience prior to application.