HAIS Teacher Recognition Awards

2017 HAIS Educator of the Future Award Winners

We would like to congratulate the following teachers on receiving the 2nd Annual HAIS Educator of the Future Award:

Daniela Checinski (Damien Memorial School) 
Daniela (Dani) Checinski, a teacher, social worker, counselor and now Dean of Students, has led our school into a new era as a co-educational learning environment. Dani has sought creative solutions to nearly every challenge presented to our school in transitioning from an all-boys to dynamic, vibrant co-ed school. She had improved processes for our growing population of young women through counseling, compassion, opportunity and access. Dani's perspective, grace, student-centered approach and tireless work ethic on behalf of all of our students is an inspiration to our school community. 
Dani does not only take on challenges that benefit our young women. She is now leading projects and hosting the conversation that will impact our school for many years to come. This year, Dani proposed and introduced The Damien Ohana Project, an peer mentoring opportunity for creating strong relationships among the different grade levels and to leave a legacy. Dani then reimagined our summer school and orientations for new students to build community and strengthen learning opportunities for students. Even as a Dean charged with discipline matters, Dani is one of the most beloved and caring staff members that we have and she will only continue to foster the spirit of Damien Memorial.

Staci Overton (Holy Nativity School)
Staci Overton, Holy Nativity School’s 5th grade lead teacher develops and leads a culture of professional curiosity and growth. She looks for resources to prompt creative/engaging lesson development. She leaves interesting or provocative articles in the workroom, posts questions or problems for colleagues to answer and shares books laden with tabs and post-its to highlight particular areas. Staci schedules regular time for students to grow empathy and compassion through listening and sharing with each other. She challenges and encourages students to pose questions, find answers, and express learning in a variety of modes and media. Her students have put on skits, written essays and created storyboards, to name just a few. Staci models how to give her students choice and voice in the direction and depth of their studies. Her incorporation of Project-Based Learning (PBL) and Design Thinking has allowed students to pursue their passions. Staci takes students beyond classroom walls, frequently visiting museums but also visiting less conventional venues. She also uses technology to allow students to expand the classroom -- face timing with experts, for example. She invites guest speakers to class to present on topics such as design, architecture, and 3D printing to do create meaningful projects. She has also helped to arrange for personalized field trips for her students to allow them to explore real world career opportunities. In Ms. Overton's classroom, text comes to life. Stories take on new meaning when her students are invited to make real life connections. When Staci’s class read a passage titled, "The Sky’s the Limit”, Staci encouraged the students to extend their knowledge and learning by researching about flight innovations throughout history. The students participated in the Design Thinking process, ideating about new possible flight innovations. Staci’s ability to engage with authentic problems and be open to outcome creates safety--diverse thinking is valued, there is space for serendipity. For example, a research question evolved until it ultimately involved a girls education group in Africa.Teaming up with colleagues to create opportunities for projects across grade levels is another strength. Fellow teachers know that Staci is open to ideas, collaboration, and innovation. Staci herself is the embodiment of positivity and optimism. She balances high expectations for her students with an equally important degree of heart and support. 

Joseph Aguiar (Hawai'i Baptist Academy) 
Based on the need for a cool shady space for students to complete timed runs and fitness circuits, PE teacher Mr. Joseph Aguiar proposed the creation of a campus trail. Joe led a team of teachers as they designed the trail, determined additional educational benefits and created a cost benefit analysis. In addition to the benefit for PE class, homerooms were given the opportunity to adopt a portion of the trail to develop outdoor learning spaces that could be utilized by all students. In addition to the 0.3 mile trail, there are now homeroom gardens and an outdoor classroom. The trail and extended outdoor spaces continue to prompt us to rethink how we utilize our entire campus for learning. Joe's innovative thinking, creativity and leadership skills are evidenced in the smiles of students, faculty and staff as they enjoy the campus trail.

Leilani Sills (Mid-Pacific Institute) 
Mrs. Sills is an exceptional educator, who has her finger on the pules of meaningful change in education. She has made it a priority to deliver instruction focused squarely on the needs of students, which means challenging both herself and students to imagine what is possible and set it as a goal. Her classes has gained her international recognition, partnerships with GoPro and Catalog Earth, a startup focused on capturing earth's vanishing landscapes in 3D. Recently featured in EdTech Magazine, Mrs. Sills describes the importance of challenging her students to be creative, problem-solvers and adopting a entrepreneurial mindset.

All of these educators have extraordinary leadership, creativity, positivity, optimism, and innovative initiatives. They are truly educational leaders, not only in their schools but across the State of Hawai'i. Mahalo nui loa for all of your hard work! 

Application Forms:
HAIS Educator of the Future Award Application Form

The purposes of this award is to:

Educator of the Future Award:

The HAIS Educator of the Future award supports and echoes the National Association of Independent Schools principles for teachers, which are to:

Winners must meet the following criteria:

Must be a full or part time staff member from an HAIS member school.

Leadership: successfully led a school or community to engage with, design and implement a solution for a significant need, problem or challenge.

Creativity: questioned the status-quo and seized an opportunity to develop a new program, system, etc. that creatively furthered the strategic mission of the organization.

Culture: promotes a culture of questioning, positivity & optimism, risk taking and discovery focused on constant improvement within the organization.

Delivery: exhibits excellence in communicating by engaging stakeholders with the innovative initiative in both clear and compelling ways.

Impact: able to share an engaging explanation of the immediate and longer-term impact the innovation had on the organization to support and inspire innovative practice within the independent school community.

Award Information:

When: Each award can be presented annually to one staff member.

Application Process:

Cost: An initial charge of $75 (per award), which includes: engraved plaque with blank name plates for the school; certificate for the winners; personal letter; winners published in HAIS communications.

Please contact Robert Landau for more information.

2016 HAIS Educator of the Future Award Winners

We would like to congratulate the following teachers on receiving the 1st Annual HAIS Educator of the Future Award: 

Matt Piercy (Hawai'i Preparatory Academy) 
Matt is an exceptional educator and person. Passionate about teaching, his classes foster and challenge students to think globally and act on their sense of social responsibility. Matt is an individual who is never complacent about teaching and learning. He adapts easily and enthusiastically to project-based learning and maximizing technology, not only for learning, but for communicating effectively with others. Matt is not afraid to bring difficult conversations and appropriate advocacy approaches to his students' experiences.
Branden Hazlet (Maui Preparatory Academy)
Branden Hazlet is the technology teacher for grades kindergarten through 12 and is the primary force behind the development of our school's "maker space," where he has had students building such things as a hovercraft (4th grade) and trikes in the upper school. He launched the middle school robotics team that, in its very first year, qualified to participate in the Worlds competition in Kentucky. In the Upper School, Branden is also taking the lead on Maui Prep's "concentrations program," where students have an opportunity to drill deeper in STEM disciplines, in business and economics, and in the arts and humanities. It is in his teaching and coaching of students where his impact as an educator is felt most profoundly. 
Van Nicholas Velasco (Pacific Buddhist Academy) 
Van Nicholas Velasco has worked with juniors in the PBA Peace Core class "Radical Movements" through a student-directed pedagogical inquiry to analyze and modify the school's carbon footprint. The student inquiry has led to student initiatives in vegan diets, community waste collection and analysis, "zero waste" days, water preservation and aquaponics systems, recycling systems and infrastructure, and ongoing experiments in composting. The energy from the student work is palpable.
Dr. Mark Hines (Mid-Pacific Institute)  
Dr. Mark is serving as the first director of educational technology at Mid-Pacific, designing and teaching in the ground-breaking "MPx" program, leading public and private school professionals in our summer workshop on PBL called "Kupu Hou Academy," helping to found the "Deeper Learning Network of Hawaii," helping to create HISTE, serving as one of the original framers and visionaries behind the "Schools of the Future" grant process at HAIS, serving on the inaugural board of SEEQs School and coaching our competitive paddling club for over two decades. Dr. Mark is a bright light for us all to follow in the Hawaii Independent School Community.


(Pictured Left to Right: Paul Turnbull, Dr. Mark Hines, & Deanna D'Olier)