Momilani Elementary teacher Masaru Uchino receives prestigious 2016-2017 Milken Educator Award

Congratulations to Momilani Elementary School third grade teacher Mr. Masaru Uchino who was presented the prestigious 2016 Milken Educator Award this morning in a presentation ceremony assembly held in the school cafeteria.

Mr. Uchino was one of two teachers from the Hawai’i Department of Education to receive the 2016 Milken Educator Award and a $25,000 cash prize on Thursday. Jefferson Elementary School fourth grade teacher Kelly Sutcliffe also received her Milken Educator Award later in the afternoon in an assembly held at her school. Both Uchino and Sutcliffe were selected for their excellence in the classroom teaching STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) to their students.

Milken Family Foundation Chairman and Co-Founder Lowell Milken presented Mr. Uchino with his award that included an unrestricted $25,000 cash prize for his personal use. The Milken Educator Awards program provides recognition and unrestricted financial award of $25,000 to exceptional elementary and secondary school teachers, principals, and specialists who are furthering excellence in our nation's schools. This year, up to 35 of America's finest educators will be honored. The Milken Educator Awards program is in its 30th year awarding its first recipients back in 1987. Hawaii has been a part of the awards program since 1990. Over 75 Hawai’i recipients have received their awards and cash prizes that has totaled over $1, 875,000. Uchino and Sutcliffe became the 74th and 75th Milken Educator Awards recipients making it the second time since 2005 that two Hawai’i educators were selected in the same year.

Governor David Ige and First Lady Dawn Amano-Ige joined Milken Family Foundation Chairman and Co-Founder Lowell Milken in presenting a very surprised Mr. Uchino with his 2016-2017 Milken Educator Award. Hawai’i State Department of Education Superintendent Kathrine Matayoshi, Pearl City/Waipahu Complex Area Superintendent Rodney Luke, along with a group of past Milken award recipients was also in attendance to congratulate Mr. Uchino.

Mr. Uchino is a very special teacher at Momilani Elementary in Pearl City and works hard in and out of the classroom. He is truly appreciated by his students who also participated Thursday morning at the award ceremony in support of their beloved teacher. Mr. Uchino is as humble as they come in our world. He brings and delivers fun, creative, and life changing experiences to his students along with fellow third grade teacher Leona Uyesato. Mr. Uchino involves the student body in the Momilani Drama program which he writes, produces, choreographs, and directs, along with the incredible Momilani faculty, staff, and parents support team, The Momilani Drama program presents plays (musicals) that are  performed by students from each grade level throughout the school year. He also leads the Momilani Fit Club that incorporates a nutrition and exercise program for student from grades 3-6. The students work out a couple days a week at school and also participate in fun runs like the upcoming Great Aloha Run which is held annually in the second week of February.

What impressed me the most about Mr. Uchino being recognized as a Milken Educator Award recipient is a comment that Momilani Elementary Principal Doreen Higa made yesterday with regard to his character and the man that he is, always striving to be the best that he can be with his students and in the community. When asked by Principal Higa if he was to rate himself from 1-10, what would you rate himself?

“I would never be a 10, because I never stop learning. There will always be better ways to learn, and better ways to teach.”

Truly amazing and very inspirational words!

Momilani Elementary School Principal Doreen Higa

“Momilani has great teachers and for him to be recognized is like winning on behalf of the grade school. He’s really special. He’s always learning and that’s what makes him great. He’s God’s child. Saturday and Sunday he does church for teenagers as well as for adults. He’s God’s child.”

Masaru Uchino

“The is a surprising. I totally thought when they started talking about the award I was picturing maybe four or five other teachers that are awesome. I didn’t think it was going to be me. No way. It’s a total shock to me. At first I thought, no, it’s not me. It’s one of those things that I don’t do it for things like this. My heart is totally for the kids. I tell them it’s all them, not me. It’s a total indication that I want them to know that I do it for them. One of the things we do with the students is that I always tell them I’m not perfect, I make mistakes. I always tell them, you’re not perfect, you’re going to make mistakes, but we learn two rules, number one, you gotta fix your mistakes, and number two, you gotta learn from it. So even me as a teacher, I make mistakes all the time, but it’s a constant learning process. I tell them, you start good, but you want to finish great. It’s still a journey in progress. Thanks to Leona Uyesato, she is the reason why I’m allowed to do all the things that I do. She’s so opened minded and always excited to do whatever it takes to get these kids excited and engaged. I’ve just been blessed to teach with someone like that in the classroom day in and day out. I share this completely with her. She is totally deserved of this as well. “

Milken Family Foundation Chairman and Co-Founder Lowell Milken

“This is always thrilling, I mean I’ve done personally hundreds of these awards around the country in the past 30 years and they never lose their impact. I know it won’t go to his head because he’s really dedicated to his church. He’s always trying to find innovative ways to find for his students. It’s a great honor to be able do this, but also in our society when we do so little in recognition for our teachers, today is equivalent of a player getting a most valuable award or winning the Oscar. We think this money is well spent because these individuals often go into a profession that doesn’t pay that much. As you can see from our prior recipients they all support one another. “

Governor David Ige

“I’m just excited because the Milken Family Foundation does a terrific job of really honoring teachers the way the way should be. It really promotes leadership and excellence in the craft of being a teacher and for those of us in the community, we know how well our students do and it really begins with the teachers in the classroom. As Mrs. Higa said, it really is an award for all of the faculty here. We know for those of us in the community, we just know how each and every teacher is to our children. Congratulations to Masaru Uchino for his award and I really wanted to thank all of the teachers and the staff here at Momilani for what they do for all of our children each and every day and each and every year.”

Hawai’i State DOE Superintendent Kathrine Matayoshi

“This is such a wonderful experience. It’s such a wonderful moment. I can’t think of a better place. The environment here that Doreen has set at the school with the highest expectations for the students that they can really achieve at highest levels, it’s just a real community. All these great teachers, the first thing they say is, “it really shouldn’t be me.” The first thing they think about is someone else, and how either they’ve been helped by someone, and they’re so committed to the kids. Their first reaction is that there are so many other teachers.”

Pearl City/Waipahu Complex Area Superintendent Rodney Luke

“This is truly a celebration and the work of great people. This is just one example of greatness and we look forward to more celebrations. When you talk about character, he exemplifies the character that we want kids to be able to display, so it’s really that balance of thinking about academics, but also thinking about the whole child. What I know about him is that not only does he provide the academics and thinking about teaching kids, but also having the arts infused in his teaching. He does productions, plays with his students and that’s incredible. At the elementary we’re setting that foundation, and as our students journey to the intermediate they have that foundation to expand on, and as they get to the high school and beyond they are able to apply those skills”

Congratulations Mr. Uchino! We are all so proud you!


Photo by Barry Villamikl | [email protected]

(Pictured from L-R) Milken Family Foundation Chairman and Co-Founder Lowell Milken, First Lady Dawn

Amano-Ige, State Senator Michelle Kidani, 2016-2017 Milken Educator Award winner Masaru Uchino,

Governor David Ige, Hawaii State DOE Superintendent Kathrine Matayoshi, Pearl City/Waipahu

Complex Area Superintendent Rodney Luke, and Momilani Elementary School Principal Doreen Higa.

Photo by Barry Villamikl | [email protected]

Momilani Elementary Principal Doreen Higa expresses her gratitude for

the successful and inspirational teamwork of third grade teachers Masuru

Uchino and Lenora Uyesato who work hand in hand in delivering excellence

in teaching and guiding their students in and out of the classroom.

Photo by Barry Villamikl | [email protected]

Governor David Ige gives Masaru a congratulatory hug as First Lady Dawn Amano-Ige looks on.

Photo by Barry Villamikl | [email protected]

Milken Family Foundation Chairman and Co-Founder Lowell Milken is pictured inside Mr. Uchino and

Mrs. Uyesato's third grade classroom following the 2016 Milken Educator Award presentation to

Mr. Uchino on Thursday, February 2, 2017. Mr. Milken spent time with the students learning and also

asking questions about the interesting and challenging STEM projects that they are currently working on.