Mililani Blessed With Talented, Caring Educators

CO-Kidani-NewKidani’s Korner…Sen. Michelle Kidani

By now you may have seen the TV and newspaper stories about the announcement that Jana Fukada — a teacher and curriculum coach at Mililani Uka Elementary School — has been named 2014-2015 Milken Educator.

Amazingly, the school was able to keep the announcement a total surprise, and Jana was genuinely stunned when Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui and others showed up at a morning assembly with the school’s 600 students to present her with the $25,000 cash award that comes with the honor, considered the “Oscar of Teaching.”

Jana has been at Mililani Uka since 2007, and principal Heather Wilhelm and her colleagues all have high praise for her commitment to excellence in teaching.

Jana is the second outstanding teacher from a Mililani school to be named a Milken Educator. Lisa-Anne Tsuruda received the honor in 2009, my first year as a senator, and we are so proud of the distinction she continues to bring to Mililani High School, where she heads the English department and teaches advanced-placement English and British literature.

A major criterion for the awards is promise for the future, and Lisa has chosen a wonderful way to inspire and invest in the future of education. She set aside nearly half of her $25,000 Milken grant to establish a Legacy Scholarship fund.

Each year, she presents a $500 scholarship to a graduating Mililani senior who has committed to becoming a teacher. Selections are based on need, grades, extracurricular activities and a short essay covering educational issues and their desire to become a teacher. Lisa’s goal is to present one scholarship per year for 20 years, for a total of $10,000.

“I am still in contact with all of my Legacy Scholars,” Lisa says, “and they are all in education programs in Hawaii and on the Mainland.”

But wait — there’s more. Lisa adds: “My great friend since high school days is former Board of Education member Kim Coco Iwamoto. She was so inspired by my mission of giving opportunities to seniors that she herself donated $10,000 in my name for a scholarship fund at Waianae High School, where I taught from 1993 to 2005. So there are going to be 20 Legacy Scholars coming out of Waianae for a total of 40 kids from my two schools!”

We all can be grateful for the daily commitment our teachers make to educate and guide our youngsters. In Lisa’s words: “I take being an educator in the DOE very seriously. It makes me so happy to help kids who are willing to take on the challenge of being teachers. I was so lucky to have a teacher,

Margaret-Helen Wood, who inspired me at Sacred Hearts Academy. I was sad to hear that she just passed away last month. She taught me to fly and to find joy in literature and working with students. I am reminded each day of the influence that a single teacher can have on a person’s life as she had on mine.”

Inspiring words from an inspiring teacher, and we are so fortunate that she and Jana Fukada are “ours” in Mililani schools.

Call Sen. Michelle Kidani at 586-7100 at the state Capitol, Room 228, or email