Educator Profile    Educators

Esther Kwon (HI '22)

Assistant Principal

Daniel K. Inouye Elementary School
Wahiawa, HI

Grade(s): Pre-K, K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

At the time of the Award, Esther Kwon was:

Assistant Principal
Daniel K. Inouye Elementary School
Wahiawa, HI

Grade(s): Pre-K, K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Biographical Information

Esther Kwon has worn many hats in her years at Daniel K. Inouye Elementary School. Currently an assistant principal, Kwon looks for innovative ways to enhance students’ educational experience in and out of the classroom. As assistant principal, she is an integral part of the school’s administrative leadership team, helping to drive the instructional program and meet overall academic goals. Last year she piloted the Pineapple Academy, a distance learning option for 12 area elementary schools. Kwon’s fifth graders started each day with “Pineapple Talk Time,” where they chatted, listened to music played by “DJ Kwon,” and set their intentions for the day with one of the four classroom norms: be present, be respectful, be curious, be responsible. Students served as co-teachers, helping to summarize learning and share key ideas in the online chat panel. As incentives, the “Bank of Kwon” handed out “Pineapple Money” as prizes. Kwon encouraged students to follow their passions, pairing them with high school students to create projects for the state’s elementary STEM fair. In the program’s inaugural year, 100% of Kwon’s students showed growth on diagnostic assessments, with 80% meeting or exceeding grade level targets in language arts. Kwon shared her learning practices with peers and invited state leaders into her online classroom to showcase what effective virtual instruction looked, sounded and felt like.

Kwon is a leader at Inouye and beyond, helping others stretch to think differently and do better for students. She chaired her grade level and the School Community Council, tutored students after school and mentors new teachers. As a Hawaii State Teacher Fellow, Kwon facilitated focus groups, shared her expertise and published articles on topics like project-based learning and increasing student engagement. She led a discussion about education policy with more than 60 teachers, leaders from the Hawaii Department of Education, legislators and community members. Kwon helped design professional development and systems of support for teacher leaders as a member of the National Hope Street Group Teacher Advisory Council.

Kwon has provided rich, well-rounded educational experiences for Inouye students. As the school’s gifted and talented teacher, she implemented an interdisciplinary curriculum and led students through project-based learning focused on UNESCO’s Global Goals. After teaching in Korea for a semester, Kwon created a world language program for grades three, four and five in which more than 200 students learned basic Korean phrases, vocabulary and Hangul. Her classroom stressed the importance of inclusion and acceptance—students used coding skills to create games to empathize with those who are visually impaired, wrote and recorded songs about caring for others, and performed choreographed dances with peers in special education classes.

Kwon earned a bachelor’s in political science in 2012 from the University of Virginia and a master’s in elementary education in 2015 from Johns Hopkins University.

Press release: Milken Family Foundation Surprises Wahiawa Educator with $25,000 Milken Educator Award

Related Connections

Article: Spotlight: Esther Kwon (HI '22)

Educator Quote:

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Esther Kwon In The News

LISTEN --> An Educator and Leader of Great Promise, Esther Kwon
What Schools Could Be  |  Apr 03, 2023

WATCH --> Korean American Teacher Surprised with 'Oscars for Teaching', Milken Educator Award
Arirang News  |  Feb 15, 2023  |  Seoul, South Korea

She Left Grounds With 4 Suitcases for a Teaching Job. She’s Now a Star Educator.
University of Virginia  |  Feb 15, 2023  |  Charlottesville, VA

Daniel K. Inouye Elementary’s Esther Kwon Receives Prestigious Milken Educator Award and $25,000 Prize
The Korea Daily  |  Feb 07, 2023  |  Los Angeles, CA

Wahiawā Educator Surprised with National Teacher Award
KHPR-FM  |  NPR  |  Feb 01, 2023  |  Honolulu, HI

Inouye Elementary Assistant Principal Wins $25K Milken Award
Honolulu Star-Advertiser  |  Jan 31, 2023  |  Honolulu, HI

WATCH --> Hawaii Educator Earns Prestigious National Award
KHON-TV  |  FOX/CW  |  Jan 31, 2023  |  Honolulu, HI

WATCH --> Wahiawa Educator Wins Prestigious $25K National Award in Surprise Ceremony
Hawaii News Now  |  NBC/CBS  |  Jan 31, 2023  |  Honolulu, HI

Daniel K. Inouye Elementary Assistant Principal Wins $25,000 Award
Honolulu Civil Beat  |  Jan 31, 2023  |  Honolulu, HI

Schofield Barracks Educator Receives Prestigious Milken Educator Award, $25K Prize
Army Weekly  |  Dec 31, 2022

Additional Information


2015 M.S., Educational Studies - Elementary, Johns Hopkins University

2012 B.A., Foreign Affairs, University of Virginia