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HIDOE News Release: Three Hawaii public school teachers each vying for $100,000 ‘Dream Big’ grants in national competition

Posted on Oct 2, 2018 in Latest Department News

HONOLULU – Three Hawaii public school teachers are each vying for $100,000 in educational grants to fund innovative projects to engage students and enhance learning at their schools.

Ryan Chatfield of Aiea High School, Leimamo Lind-Strauss of Ho‘okena Elementary School, and Zachary Morita of Niu Valley Middle School are among 15 finalists nationwide for the Thank America’s Teachers® Dream Big Teacher Challenge® sponsored by Farmers Insurance. The program awards more than $1 million annually in grants to teachers.

The five finalists nationally who garner the most votes online from the public between Oct. 1 and Oct. 31 will each win $100,000 for their proposals.
To vote, go to and locate the Hawaii finalists. You may vote for each finalist once per day throughout the month of October.

Here’s a look at Hawaii’s finalists and their grant pitches:
Ryan Chatfield, a health science teacher at Aiea High, envisions developing the Health Science Student Development Center at her school. An existing building would be renovated and transformed into a center where students can gain experience and explore the healthcare field with professionals, learn clinical skills and teach important health skills to the community. The community would benefit from increased access to, and knowledge about, healthcare.
Leimamo Lind-Strauss, a third-grade teacher at Ho‘okena Elementary on the Big Island, envisions creating a telescope observatory at her school. The observatory would serve as a centralized classroom for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Design, and Math (STEAM), and allow students to study the skies with hands-on astronomy. The observatory would host family nights to engage the community.
Zachary Morita, a music teacher at Niu Valley Middle, envisions creating the Niu Valley Music Olympic Invitational. The event would bring together student and professional musicians from various instrumental mediums to perform in a live competitive setting. The competition would provide opportunities for students to be recognized for their hard work and talents while also enriching the community.

“We are proud and excited to support our three teachers in the running for these highly sought-after grants to help enrich the learning environments at their schools and engage students,” said Superintendent Dr. Christina Kishimoto.

“I encourage all of our HIDOE ʻohana — teachers, students, parents, staff — and everyone in our communities to vote online daily through October to make these grants a reality for Ryan, Leimamo, Zachary and their students. Last year’s winner, Stevenson Middle science teacher Patricia Morgan, shows Hawaii has what it takes to win.”

Farmers Insurance reviewed hundreds of proposals from teachers nationwide before selecting 15 finalists through a competitive review process to advance to the public voting phase. The insurer expects to announce the five winners in December.

“These teachers embody everything we celebrate on World Teacher’s Day October 5 and I urge the Hawaii community and the entire nation to vote to help make their big dreams a reality,” said Melanie Joseph, marketing manager for Farmers Insurance Hawaii.


About the Hawaii State Department of Education
The Hawaii State Department of Education is the 10th largest U.S. school district and the only statewide educational system in the country. It is comprised of 256 schools and 36 charter schools, and serves about 180,000 students. King Kamehameha III established Hawaii’s public school system in 1840. To learn more, visit

Lindsay Chambers
Communications Director
Hawaii State Department of Education
Ph: (808) 586-3232
Email: [email protected]