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Leeward’s Teacher Of The Year Focuses On Green Education

Leeward District Teacher of the Year Victoria Coffin (center) with Gov. Neil Abercrombie (left) and Board of Education member Jim Williams. Photo from Alex Da Silva.

Keoneula Elementary sixth-grade teacher Victoria Coffin is one of seven District Teachers of the Year honored at Washington Place recently by Gov. Neil Abercrombie and deputy superintendent Ronn Nozoe.

Coffin was chosen to represent the Leeward district as a candidate for the Hawaii State Teacher of the Year, upon the nomination by her principal Eileen Hirota.

“I was truly honored to know that my principal nominated me for this recognition and believes that I was deserving of this award,” said Coffin, who has been a teacher for six years. “Later on, when I found out I was selected to represent my district as the Leeward Teacher of the Year, I was ecstatic.”

Coffin believes that educators hold the power to change the world, starting within their classrooms.

“One of my main goals as a teacher is to make a difference, whether it is in the lives of my students, (or) the people that I encounter or in my teaching profession,” she said.

Her teaching philosophy also earned her a spot among a national pool of more than 300 educators to participate in the Japan-U.S. Teacher Exchange Program under the Education for Sustainable Development.

The application process was rigorous and required numerous recommendations.

The exchange program invited 24 educators from Japan and 24 from the United States to exchange ideas on sustainability projects and help increase the awareness on ESD-oriented school programs. Of the 24 chosen nationally, Coffin was the only educator from Hawaii.

The exchange program convined for its first three days in San Francisco, and the second half was conducted in Japan, where Coffin was able to visit schools in Hiroshima and Nara that excel in green initiatives and sustainability programs.

“I believe this program has really opened up doors for me,” Coffin said. “Not only has it allowed me to communicate with educators nationally, but also internationally.

“It is amazing what other educators are doing within their classrooms, and being able to experience and see how schools in Japan are promoting sustainable lifestyles within their curricula and with their students motivates me to continue promoting green, sustainable initiatives within my school.”

And Coffin has shifted her concentration accordingly, as the knowledge gained from the conversations at the exchange program allowed her to reflect on her own teachings.

“This year my focus has been collaborating with teachers on various school projects,” she said. “We are currently working on starting an aquaponics systems at our school, and we hope to work with more community organizations to expand our Student Outdoor Learning Center,” she added.