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HIDOE NEWS RELEASE: Ala Wai Elementary School’s Lori Kwee named 2021 Hawai’i State Teacher of the Year

Posted on Oct 23, 2020 in Latest Department News, Newsroom

HONOLULU — Ala Wai Elementary teacher Lori Kwee was named the 2021 Hawaiʻi State Teacher of the Year.  Kwee received the state’s top teaching award from Gov. David Ige and Superintendent Dr. Christina Kishimoto during a virtual awards ceremony this afternoon.

Kwee will represent Hawaiʻi in the National Teacher of the Year program. The honor is presented annually to a classroom teacher selected from more than 13,000 educators within the Hawaiʻi State Department of Education (HIDOE). Kwee was among 15 Complex Area Teachers of the Year and the Charter School Teacher of the Year recognized today.

“Lori is an energetic and passionate educator whose innovative and engaging approach to learning motivates and inspires students and teachers,” said Superintendent Kishimoto. “Through her unique teaching methodologies, she has been able to create meaningful, rigorous and relevant learning opportunities that activate the voices of our future leaders.”

Kwee has been a HIDOE teacher for over 30 years and currently serves as a fourth-grade teacher at Ala Wai Elementary. Recently selected as a top five Grand Prize Finalist for the LifeChanger of the Year award for her integrated approach to educating students, Kwee’s classrooms are known to be open inquiry and project-based learning environments that center around student empowerment and voice.

Kwee encourages students to apply their curiosities, skills and knowledge toward community-based projects, applying standards-based curriculum to real world experiences that inspire students to make a difference. Most notably, her students worked to raise awareness around real world issues ranging from bullying prevention to endangered species. Kwee’s students also recently developed a “Share Aloha” brand to foster kindness throughout their entire school community.

“Her positivity and forward-thinking practices have inspired other educators to seek out opportunities to engage students in relevant learning that allows them to dream big and make great things happen,” Ala Wai Elementary Principal Michelle DeBusca said.

The full list of finalists honored today are, in alphabetical order:

  • Serena Cox, Kauai Complex, Waimea Canyon Middle.
  • Kristen Ann Eastvedt, Castle-Kahuku Complex, Hau‘ula Elementary.
  • Kelly Elms,
    Farrington-Kaiser-Kalani Complex, King Liholiho Elementary.
  • Elaine Higa,
    Kaʻu-Keaʻau-Pahoa Complex, Hawai‘i District Office.
  • Heidi Jenkins,
    Hana-Lahainaluna-Lanaʻi-Molokaʻi Complex, Maui District Office.
  • Shannon Kam,
    Campbell-Kapolei Complex, Ewa Makai Middle.
  • Shannon Kealoha,
    Baldwin-Kekaulike-Maui Complex, Maui Waena Intermediate.
  • Joanna Kobayashi,
    Aiea-Moanalua-Radford Complex, Moanalua High.
  • Kimberly Koopman,
    Kailua-Kalaheo Complex, Kalaheo High.
  • Lori Kwee,
    Kaimuki-McKinley-Roosevelt Complex, Ala Wai Elementary.
  • Annette M.M.
    McComber, Hilo-Waiakea Complex, Keaukaha Elementary.
  • Jacqueline N.
    Nuha-Tabernero, Pearl City-Waipahu Complex, Waikele Elementary.
  • Kealaonaonahookipamalahini
    J. Nunuha, Nanakuli-Waiʻanae Complex, Nanaikapono Elementary.
  • Ashley Oyama,
    Honokaʻa-Kealakehe-Kohala-Konawaena Complex, Konawaena Elementary.
  • Andrew Stever,
    Public Charter Schools, Hawaiʻi Academy of Arts & Science.
  • Danielle Tokuda,
    Leilehua-Mililani-Waialua Complex, Waialua Elementary.

Today’s virtual ceremony included:

  • Honorariums to each
    finalist by Hawaiian Electric Co.
  • A one-year lease of
    a 2021 Subaru Forester courtesy of Servco Pacific to the winner.


Krislyn Yano

Communications Specialist

Hawaii State Department of Education

Office: (808) 784-6200

E-mail: [email protected]

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