The community at Pearl City's Momilani Elementary sees third-grade teacher Masaru Uchino as a modern-day Pied Piper: Wherever he leads, students, colleagues and families are eager to follow. In the classroom, students are captivated and motivated by his philosophy: "Do your best, be your best." Uchino uses a wide array of technology and methodologies to teach math, including computers, Promethean Boards, digital recordings, blogs and music. He also incorporates technology into the student journalism club, in which members research local stories and produce video podcasts that are distributed on the school's network server and blog.
Uchino, who worked for a Japanese automotive racing parts manufacturer before entering the classroom, brings real-world STEM experience to his students. For a three-day winter science camp, Uchino worked with an engineer to create a course around the four forces of flight; during a two-week summer science camp, students designed and built boats powered by rubber bands. Last year Uchino developed a unit in which students used concepts of reflection and refraction, angles and area to engineer a light maze. The National Science Teachers Association has recommended the unit for inclusion in its NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards) curriculum.
Uchino is deeply embedded in the Momilani community. He is one of the first people on campus each morning and among the last to leave. Committed to seeing every student succeed, Uchino offers tutoring sessions after school and during intersession breaks. Since 2007, Momilani's third-graders have scored at least 25 points higher than the math meridian on the standardized Hawaii State Assessment exams, which can be attributed to Uchino's vital role in the classroom. A member of the student community council, Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) committee and Parent Teacher Organization (PTO), he is the grade-level chair for third and fourth grades. Uchino writes, produces, scores, choreographs and directs the annual third-grade drama production, which is aligned to the curriculum with plots like Kingdom of the Water Cycles.
Uchino is passionate about getting kids moving and coordinates the school's Great Aloha Run, Hawaii 5210 "Let’s Go!" Keiki Run, Ford Island Bridge Run 10K, Jamba Juice Banana Man Chase 5K, and Wahiawa Pineapple Run 10K, as well as serving as head coach for Momilani's "Fit Factory," an after-school fitness group. When a student asked Uchino to help him prepare for the Honolulu Marathon, the pair trained together after school and on weekends, then ran the race and crossed the finish line together.
Uchino earned a Bachelor of Arts in social studies, with a minor in educational studies, in 2001 from the University of California, Irvine, and a Master of Education in educational technology from the University of Hawaii at Manoa in 2011.
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