Hawaii state Teacher of the Year for 2004, Robert Hu, an American civics and ethnic studies teacher at Mililani High School, received a lei and a hug from his daughter, Jennifer Hu, at a Board of Education meeting yesterday at the Kailua Intermediate School cafetorium, where he and six other teachers were honored.

Mililani educator
is named state
Teacher of Year

Robert Hu says his own
teachers inspired him

When Robert Hu was a senior at Oklahoma Baptist University, he ran short of tuition money in his senior year. One of his professors whipped out her checkbook and paid it for him.

Hawaii state Teacher of the Year for 2004, Robert Hu of Mililani High School, will receive $1,500, a free one-year lease on a new car and instructional software.

"She believed in me," the Mililani High School teacher, now 61, recalled yesterday after being named Hawaii's State Teacher of the Year for 2004.

Hu came home to Hawaii after graduation, paid her back and went on to spend 32 years as a public school teacher, inspired by her and other teachers that made a difference in his life.

"Teachers were my role models," said Hu, whose father immigrated to Hawaii from Canton, China, and whose mother was born on a Kauai plantation. "In whatever I have done, I try to give back.

"Public education has really been my life. It gave me a chance to make it here in Hawaii. It's an equalizing force I think all of our young people deserve today," Hu said.

One of Hu's trademarks as a social studies teacher at Mililani High is "The Ohana Project." He requires his students to do good deeds, such as tutoring younger kids, in hopes of helping mold them into responsible, caring citizens.

"I want them to be the best person he or she can be," he said. "Give, give, don't just take."

Hu was honored last night at the Board of Education's meeting at Kailua Intermediate School, along with six district teachers of the year. They are: Betty Brask of Kihei Elementary, Maui District; Dewey Gottlieb II of Pearl City High, Leeward district; Shari Kaneshiro of Hokulani Elementary, Honolulu district; Pamela McMillan of Kauai High School, Kauai district; Merle Okabe of Keaau High, Hawaii District; and Donna Therrien of Lanikai Public Charter School, Windward District.

The Polynesian Cultural Center, longtime corporate sponsor, gave $500 to each district teacher of the year and an additional $1,000 to the state teacher of the year.

The Hawaii Automobile Dealers Association gave each teacher a free one-year lease on a new car. SMARTer Kids Foundation gave instructional software to each teacher, and other advanced classroom technology to the state teacher of the year.

Hu took his moment in the limelight to call for more funding for public education.

"It bothers me when people say we don't have the money," he said. "Find the money. I'm trying to make it so that the playing field is equal for everyone, regardless of family background."


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