Two Hawaii teachers among group honored by Obama at White House


POSTED: Wednesday, January 06, 2010


Two Hawaii teachers were among more than 100 educators recognized by President Barack Obama at the White House today for their dedication to mathematics and science. 

Liane Tanigawa of Aiea and Seanyelle Yagi of Honolulu received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.  

“;This award reaffirms my educational beliefs that learning should be engaging and meaningful. It also encourages me to continue sharing my love of teaching science with others,”; said Tanigawa, a mathematics and science coach at Pearl Ridge Elementary School, in a written statement. 

Yagi, a sixth-grade mathematics teacher at Kalakaua Middle School, said, “;The award represents what is possible when you push yourself to give students opportunities for individual growth and accomplishment.”; 

 ”;I believe so strongly in the work that you do,”; Obama said at a ceremony in the White House East Room. “;And as I mentioned to some of you, because I've got two girls upstairs with math tests coming up, I figure that a little extra help from the best of the best couldn't hurt.

“;So you're going to have assignments after this,”; he said. The audience laughed. “;These awards were not free,”; he added.

Obama said teacher quality is the most important single factor that influences whether students succeed or fail in the “;STEM”; fields of science, technology, engineering and math. But, he said, U.S. students trail their peers around the world.

He said a substantial shortage of teachers in these subject areas will deepen unless steps are taken to reverse the trend, and that doing so requires outside help because the federal government cannot do it alone.

“;Make no mistake: Our future is on the line,”; he said. “;The nation that out-educates us today is going to out-compete us tomorrow.”;

Obama, who has included students in several science events at the White House, said he would do his part, too. Planning is under way for a White House science fair to honor student winners of national science and technology competitions, he said.