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STEAM Powers Innovation as Masaru Uchino of Pearl City, Hawaii, Earns 2016-17 Milken Educator Award and $25,000 Cash Prize

Incorporating the Arts into STEM Curriculum puts Innovative Lessons on Main Stage

February 02, 2017

SANTA MONICA, Calif., — There's an art to becoming a "Math Master," literally, as Momilani Elementary School teacher Masaru Uchino of Pearl City, Hawaii, guides his third-grade students from STEM to STEAM in the classroom. He writes, produces, choreographs, scores and directs the annual third-grade drama production, which is aligned with state standards and reveals a positive social message. With plots like Guardians of the GLO Crystals and Kingdoms of the Water Cycles, Uchino’s dynamic teaching methods captivate students, parents and colleagues with his creative ways of instruction.

However the star of the show during this morning's surprise assembly was not reflection or refraction. Governor David Ige and First Lady Dawn Amano-Ige joined Milken Family Foundation Chairman and Co-Founder Lowell Milken in presenting the Milken Educator Award to Uchino. Supported by education leaders including State Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi, Complex Area Superintendent Rodney Luke and previous Milken Educator recipients, the school community cheered non-stop for their popular teacher of math and science.

The prestigious Award includes an unrestricted $25,000 cash prize for his personal use. Uchino is among up to 35 honorees who will receive this national recognition for 2016-17.

This season marks the 30th year of the Milken Educator Awards, hailed by Teacher magazine as the "Oscars of Teaching."

"Working in international business before education, Masaru Uchino appreciates the skills needed to compete in a fast-paced global economy," said Lowell Milken. "Thanks to Masaru's high level of preparation, his students are on a pathway to become the innovators and visionaries of the future. I am proud to have Masaru join our family of Milken Educators, and look forward to even greater achievements to come."

"Masaru Uchino's creative work with students in STEM topics has been truly inspiring and has helped our students to higher levels of achievement," said Governor Ige. "On behalf of the State of Hawaii, I congratulate Mr. Uchino on this well-deserved recognition. His engaging lessons will make a difference for many years to come."

"The excitement from today's event will be remembered by this school not only because of the nature of this prestigious award, but also the impact that teachers have made and continue to make on the lives of their students," stated Superintendent Matayoshi. "Congratulations to Mr. Uchino for this achievement and for being an inspiration to so many! He is an example of how innovative lessons can spark a student's passion for STEM."

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 score 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 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.

More information about Uchino, 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, Uchino's honor includes membership in the National Milken Educator Network, a group of more than 2,700 top principals, teachers and specialists dedicated to strengthening education.

In addition to participation in the Milken Educator Network, 2016-17 recipients will attend a Milken Educator Forum, March 23-25, 2017, in New Orleans. Educators will have the opportunity to network with their new colleagues and hear from state and federal officials about the importance of 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 program, which includes powerful professional development 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 Awards has no formal nomination or application process. Candidates are sourced through a confidential selection process and then 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 Milken Educator Awards, created by the Milken Family Foundation, is in its 30th year. 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.