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Tech guru Ken Kang cracks the code on successful learning, earns a $25,000 Milken Educator Award

Hawaii STEM maven boosts student and staff performance at Aiea High School 

February 05, 2018

SANTA MONICA, Calif., — For Technology Coordinator and former electrical engineer Ken Kang, innovation is an everyday occurrence at Aiea High School overlooking Pearl Harbor on Oahu. Whether he's helping STEM students step up by learning programming, writing code and creating algorithms for their school projects or implementing systems solutions to help educators engage learners through innovative technology, Kang is a science and tech guru committed to providing students and staff the tools they need to solve problems now and in the future. A former student at Aiea, Kang is all about giving back to the community.

But Kang was on the receiving end this morning at a surprise school assembly, where he was presented with a Milken Educator Award. Hawaii State Superintendent Dr. Christina Kishimoto and Milken Educator Awards Senior Vice President Dr. Jane Foley named Kang a 2017-18 recipient of the national recognition, which comes with an unrestricted $25,000 cash prize. Kang is the only Milken Educator Award winner from Hawaii this year, and is among the 44 honorees for 2017-18.

The Milken Educator Awards, hailed by Teacher magazine as the "Oscars of Teaching" has been opening minds and shaping futures for 30 years. Research shows teacher quality is the driving in-school factor behind student growth and achievement. The initiative not only aims to reward great teachers, but to celebrate, elevate and activate those innovators in the classroom who are guiding America's next generation of leaders. Milken Educators believe, "The future belongs to the educated."

As the school's foremost technology advocate and implementer, Kang teaches the students and the staff innovation strategies that emphasize working via collaborative tech platforms while also promoting personal initiative, academic improvement and community involvement. Kang launched the school's successful STEM class, prompting students to increase their engagement in hands-on projects as he helped develop a STEM curriculum and a larger tech strategy for the school and the district as a whole.

"Ken Kang was a working engineer before returning to his old school and turning his mind's eye to educational technology solutions," said Foley. "His real-world experience in a STEM field fuels his desire to make science and technology learning attainable to all, which is the kind of big picture vision we seek in Milken Educators. Through Kang's creative adaptation of technological expertise and genuine caring for his students and their futures, innovation can become just another day at school, just another day in paradise. And a good day for all involved."

"Ken's diligent work in improving technology resources and training his fellow teachers has advanced Aiea High and all the schools in the Aiea complex and shaped students' passion for STEM learning," said Kishimoto. "His devotion to his alma mater is tremendous and we congratulate and thank him for being such an inspiration for our students."

About Milken Educator Ken Kang
When Ken Kang started Aiea High School's first STEM class in 2015, the dozen seniors had little experience in coding, programming, or using math and science to drive innovation. Kang, the school's technology coordinator, engaged the students with interactive lessons, mentoring them, fostering innovation and creativity in tackling relevant real-world challenges, and encouraging them to think outside the box and persevere. At the end of the year, students presented capstone projects on medical and environmental issues that included technological systems, products and programs driven by algorithms and scientific process. All of the students graduated with STEM honors, and several went on to prestigious colleges and military service academies.

Students and staff turn to Kang for leadership and guidance with technology and beyond. Kang helped Aiea implemented AppleTV in its 60 classrooms, empowering teachers to increase student engagement. Always looking for ways to improve teachers' communication and collaboration, he incorporated and trained Aiea's staff on Google Classroom, Google Docs and Infinite Campus, a new grading system. Kang runs district-level workshops to help all the schools in Aiea Principal Complex integrate technology and has helped upgrade intercom and phone systems, digital marquees and computer software. He serves on Aiea's academic review team, community council and leadership team. Kang sponsors many clubs and works with students to build models and robots and create a culture of innovation at Aiea.

Kang is passionate about giving back to the Aiea community and knows firsthand how important education is to students' long-term success. When his family arrived in Hawaii from Korea, Kang was an English language learner and qualified for free and reduced lunch. He graduated from Aiea High School, went to college and worked as an electrical engineer before transitioning to the classroom. Kang co-chairs Aiea's academic review team, collaborating with colleagues to improve student achievement. He leads Tech Nights to increase technology awareness in the community, especially important to families who lack access to equipment or the internet. The school culture promotes Achievement, Integrity and Relationships (AIR); Kang excels at all three.

A graduate of the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Kang earned a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering in 1997 and a post-baccalaureate degree in secondary education and educational technology in 2005.

More information about Kang, plus links to photos and a video from today's assembly, can be found on the Milken Educator Awards website at

Milken Educators are selected in early to mid-career for what they have achieved and for the promise of what they will accomplish. In addition to the $25,000 prize and public recognition, Kang's honor includes membership in the National Milken Educator Network, a group of more than 2,700 top teachers, principals and specialists dedicated to strengthening education.

In addition to participation in the Milken Educator Network, 2017-18 recipients will attend a Milken Educator Forum in Washington, D.C., March 20-23, 2018. Educators will have the opportunity to network with their new colleagues and hear from state and federal officials about maximizing their leadership roles to advance educator effectiveness.

More than $138 million in funding, including $68 million in individual $25,000 awards, has been devoted to the overall Awards initiative, which includes powerful professional learning opportunities throughout recipients' careers. Many have gone on to earn advanced degrees and be placed in prominent posts and on state and national education committees.

The Awards alternate yearly between elementary and secondary educators. Unlike most teacher recognition programs, the Milken Educator Award is completely unique: Educators cannot apply for this recognition and do not even know they are under consideration. Candidates are sourced through a confidential selection process and then are reviewed by blue ribbon panels appointed by state departments of education. Those most exceptional are recommended for the Award, with final approval by the Milken Family Foundation.

Past recipients have used their Awards to fund their children's education or their own continuing education. Others have financed dream field trips, established scholarships and even funded the adoption of children.

To get regular updates on the surprise Milken Educator Award events, follow and use the #MilkenAward hashtag on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The Milken Educator Awards tour is on social media at,,, and

For more information about the Milken Educator Awards, visit or call MFF at (310) 570-4772.

About the Milken Educator Awards
The very first Milken Educator Awards were presented by the Milken Family Foundation 30 years ago in 1987. The Awards provide public recognition and individual financial rewards of $25,000 to elementary and secondary school teachers, principals and specialists from around the country who are furthering excellence in education. Recipients are heralded in early to mid-career for what they have achieved and for the promise of what they will accomplish.

Jana Rausch
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