COURTESY OF GREG KNUDSEN /
STATE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
Mokulele Elementary School Principal Teri Ushijima was this year's Hawaii winner of the $25,000 Milken Family Foundation National Educator Award.
Mokulele school principal honored
Teri Ushijima wins the prestigious Milken Foundation award
The school assembly did not seem out of the ordinary for Mokulele Elementary School Principal Teri Ushijima.
Schools Superintendent Patricia Hamamoto was making one of her regular visits. Gov. Linda Lingle would also drop by, which could have been a hint, but Ushijima did not find it unusual.
That was why Ushijima was floored when Hamamoto announced at the assembly that she was this year's Hawaii winner of the $25,000 Milken Family Foundation National Educator Award.
"I can't believe it's true. It's so amazing," Ushijima said.
Described by the state Department of Education as a "cutting-edge educator" and "recognized leader," Ushijima was selected for the award out of about 13,500 Hawaii public school principals, vice principals and teachers. This is her second year as principal at Mokulele on Hickam Air Force Base.
"It's a tremendous honor," she said. "When someone wins an award like this, it's really a reflection of the people around that person. I'm really grateful for my hard-working teachers and what they do every day with their students."
The Milken Foundation will pay Ushijima $25,000 in cash for her accomplishments.
"They're usually individuals everyone recognizes for their effectiveness working with teachers ... for their ability to inspire teachers and students and everyone they contact," said DOE spokesman Greg Knudsen.
"They tend to rise to the top, and people know their good work," he said.
Ushijima is president of the Hawaii Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development, a trainer of cognitive coaching, and is co-authoring a high school version of the Tribes handbook for creating positive learning communities.
Ushijima, who received her doctorate in education from the University of Southern California, served as Moanalua High School's vice principal for five years and was also a teacher and counselor.
A project Ushijima worked on at Mokulele last year was a monthly teacher study group that brought research-based studies into the classroom.
"What we want is learning that lasts," Ushijima said. "We feel it's important that we ourselves continue to learn what the latest research is saying so we can implement it in our school."
Sixty-five Hawaii educators have received the Milken award since 1990. Hawaii educators' awards total $1.6 million.
"It's a real positive experience for all of them," Knudsen said. "What they appreciate even more is the recognition and acknowledgment of their work because oftentimes in the teaching profession, that doesn't occur. It doesn't happen often enough."
The Milken Family Foundation established the award in 1982 to retain and attract the highest-quality K-12 educators, and has since awarded more than $56 million to 2,200 educators in 48 states. It is the largest teacher recognition program in the United States.