UH faculty honored for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching

University of Hawaiʻi
Kymber-Lee S Char, (808) 956-9437
Public Information Officer, External Affairs and University Relations
Posted: Aug 31, 2009

HONOLULU – The University of Hawai‘i has selected seven faculty members from campuses across the university system as the recipients of the Frances Davis Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.  In memory of the late Frances Davis who taught mathematics at Leeward Community College and University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa for 19 years, the award recognizes UH faculty members who demonstrate outstanding dedication and excellence as teachers of undergraduate students.
Joanne Birch is a graduate teaching assistant and doctoral candidate in botany at UH Mānoa. As a woman scientist, Birch is highly motivated to serve as a role model in her teaching.  She enjoys expanding students’ understanding of diversity in the scientific community, enforcing the idea that with hard work, determination, and self-confidence anyone can become a successful scientist. Her ability as an effective teacher was recognized by invitations to participate in three teaching workshops offered by the Center for Teaching Excellence and the UH Mānoa Graduate Division.  Birch has been described as a “bright, conscientious educator with a keen sense of professionalism and desire to help others in understanding botanical principles and laboratory techniques.”
Abegail Kopf is an instructor in respiratory therapy at Kapiʻolani Community College.  In educating future healthcare providers, Kopf strives to facilitate learning experiences that promote independent learning, professionalism and the application of knowledge and critical thinking.  Kopf is highly knowledgeable in her field and teaches in a way that keeps the student’s engaged.  Students appreciate that she communicates clearly, concisely and thoroughly.  She also understands the needs of the diverse students she teaches and accommodates their differing learning needs through creative pedagogical strategies.  A student noted that Kopf is “patient and sincerely wants students to learn.”
Heather Kurano is a Spanish instructor in the Department of Languages and Literatures of Europe and the Americas at UH Mānoa.  Kurano is successful in making the Spanish language and Hispanic cultures “come alive” and be more real than theoretical by relating to students at their interest levels.  Whenever she travels to Spanish speaking areas, she brings back authentic materials in the language that are also culturally relevant.  She often incorporates video clips, radio excerpts, reading materials and even music from abroad to expose students to the culture in a variety of forms.  A colleague observed, “There is no doubt that she is one of the most versatile and capable language instructors that we have in the Spanish program.”
Kelikokauaikekai Hoe is an assistant professor in Hawaiian studies at Windward Community College.  Hoe conducts his classes in the spirit of traditional Hawaiian culture and has been a leader in creating opportunities for Native Hawaiian students in Windward Oʻahu.  He has experience in loʻi restoration, creation of hula instruments, and writing and performing in Hawaiian language plays.  Hoe has introduced courses in Hawaiian mythology and religion and revived the Polynesian voyaging and seamanship classes.  He has been an integral part of Windward CC’s Achieving the Dream Team and Ke Kumu Pali, the campus group that coordinates Hawaiian culture programs and activities at the college.
Lisa Parr is an instructor of marine science at UH Hilo.  She has a dynamic teaching style that captures her students’ attention and is able to explain ideas that are difficult to conceptualize.  Parr is committed to her students and always gets them involved, whether in lecture, lab or out in the field.  Her capacity for teaching students to interact with their community has raised the level of expectation in the marine science department as a whole.  “She is passionate about seeing her students succeed and shows them ways of teaching themselves through real life experiences and field activities,” noted a colleague.  Parr is an excellent teacher, advisor and mentor who wants the best for her students and puts them as her first priority.
Taupouri Tangaro is the assistant professor and department chair of Hawaiian life styles and humanities at Hawaiʻi Community College.  He inspires students intellectually and spiritually to strive for excellence in whatever they do.  Tangaro sees potential in all of his students and selflessly gives his time and attention to support student learning and promote student success both in and outside of the classroom.  His classes are comprised of Hawaiʻi CC and UH Hilo students, administrators, faculty, staff and community members.  Tangaro “is charged with bridging not only generations, but our sister campuses and our community.  He is a visionary.”  Students that experienced his teaching style and creative genius say that he is “truly a bright and rising star.”
Stefanie Wilson is an associate professor of business administration at UH West Oʻahu. Wilson uses her combination of academic, business, and community service experience to impart knowledge with students from a theoretical and practitioner perspective.  Wilson believes graduates of UH West Oʻahu should have the knowledge and skills that will enable them to achieve their professional goals, contribute to the productivity of their organizations and provide leadership and service to their communities.  “She is without a doubt one of our most dynamic and enthusiastic assistant professors,” said a colleague.  “Her ability to weave theory and practice into her teaching gives our students a much more enriching experience.”
These individuals will be recognized for their achievements along with other UH award recipients at the annual Convocation ceremony to be held September 15, 2009 at 10:00 a.m. at Kennedy Theatre on the UH Mānoa campus.  The ceremony is open to the public at no charge, and no reservations are needed.  For more information on the awards ceremony, visit http://www.hawaii.edu/about/awards.