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Serena Cox is Teacher of the Year

HONOLULU — On Friday, Lori Kwee, a fourth-grade teacher at Ala Wai Elementary School in O‘ahu, was named the 2021 Hawai‘i State Teacher of the Year, and will be representing all of the states’s complex area teachers in the National Teacher of the Year Program next year in Washington.

She also wins the use of a 2021 Subaru Forester for a year.

Serena Cox, a teacher at Waimea Canyon Middle School, is the state Department of Education Kaua‘i Area Complex Teacher of the Year. There were 15 complex area winners named last week.

“As the 2021 Teacher of the Year for my complex area, it means to protect its community, representing all stakeholders, community leaders, parents, and of course our students,” Cox said.

“Listening to all of you (my students) makes me a proud educator in Hawai‘i. The question we educators should always ask is ‘What is best for our students?’”

“To my students, your voices ring passionate and true,” Kwee said. “Listening to those beautiful voices that had so much thought helped our first impressions start in our classrooms — the relationships, building trust and building empathy for others. Thank you to my school, our principals, my husband, my mentors, my colleagues and students. Together we can make things happen.”

Kwee has been a teacher for over 30 years, and was recently selected as a top-five grand-prize finalist for the “LifeChanger of the Year award” for her integrated approach to educating students. Her classrooms are known to be open-inquiry and project-based learning environments that center around student empowerment and voice.

Mark Fukunaga, chairman and CEO of Servco Pacific Inc., sponsor of the recognition program, addressed the finalists virtually and announced Kwee as the winner. Governor David Ige and DOE Superintendent Dr. Christine Kishimoto presented the awards, also virtually.

“We are delighted to be a part of this celebration because we love schools, we love in particular the work that you educators do everyday,” said Fukunaga. “Your determination, commitment and your love for our students is what we admire.”

Fukunaga said teachers in Hawai‘i may come to any Subaru dealership to receive a $250 discount, while teachers and students may bring their school identification to receive free school supplies from one of their dealerships’ kiosks nearby their community as a way to show Servco’s appreciation.


Stephanie Shinno, features, education, business, and community reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or
Source: The Garden Island

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