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Kailua Intermediate Social Studies Teacher Is Best In State

The newly named 2013 Hawaii State Teacher of the Year, Karen Kutsunai of Kailua Intermediate School, accepts a giant key to a new KIA Optima Hybrid from Aloha KIA owner Bill van den Hurk at Washington Place, witnessed by (left) Miss Hawaii Teen USA Samantha Neyland and Miss Hawaii USA Brianna Acosta. Photo from Dave Rolf.

Hawaii’s 2013 Teacher of the Year is in the seventh-grade social studies classroom every day at Kailua Intermediate School. But for the next year, she can commute there in a 2012 KIA Optima gas-electric hybrid, compliments of Aloha KIA.

Karen Kutsunai’s new title – and her key to the leased car – were presented Oct. 26 at Washington Place in ceremonies attended by all seven district teachers of the year. She got there by being voted the Windward District’s top teacher by her colleagues for the 2011-2012 school year.

“She encourages her stu-

dents to become active citizens as they participate in real-world contests,” said principal Lisa DeLong, “tunneling to the spine of Oahu, following the election trail and playing the role of a plantation worker in early Hawaii.

“(Karen) is humbled by this recognition and credits the collective efforts of our entire school community for this honor.”

Now in her 13th year at KIS, Kutsunai is known for bringing faculty together for monthly Ohana club socials to discuss issues and improve relationships. She’s also a quick study on new technology and should make good use of another prize – an instructional software package worth thousands of dollars from SMART Technologies. Also awarded to her was a $1,500 check from TOY sponsor Polynesian Cultural Center, and a $200 gas card from Aloha Petroleum. (Aloha also has a convenient electric vehicle charging station at the Kailua Shell.)

Over the years, Hawaii Automobile Dealers Association has coordinated the presentation of 54 new leased cars to the state’s top public school-teachers, according to Dave Rolf, HADA executive director. “The KIA Hybrid is an absolute beauty of a car,” Rolf said, adding that Kutsunai herself is “cute as can be! I can see why the kids love her.”