Aliamanu Elementary teacher wins presidential award

(Via Ho’okele News)

Laura Fukumoto, Aliamanu Elementary School fifth grade teacher, is honored at a surprise assembly Feb. 14 as one of two Hawaii recipients of the prestigious Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.

Laura Fukumoto, Aliamanu Elementary School fifth grade teacher, is honored at a surprise assembly Feb. 14 as one of two Hawaii recipients of the prestigious Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.

David Tom

Navy Region Hawaii School Liaison Officer

“You have taught us to be the best that we can be, and we will be your students forever,” said the student emcee at the Feb. 14 Aliamanu Elementary School surprise assembly to honor fifth grade teacher Laura Fukumoto. She was one of two Hawaii recipients of the prestigious Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching by President Obama.

Two winners are chosen from every state, District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Department of Defense Education Activity.

“These teachers are inspiring today’s young students to become the next generation of American scientists, mathematicians, and innovators,” Obama said. “Through their passion and dedication, and by sharing their excitement about science, technology, engineering, and math, they are helping us build a promising future for all our children.”

Fukumoto, her husband, and three sons are all about service. Her husband, Dennis, is a retired master sergeant. from the Hawaii Air National Guard (HIANG). Son Danny is a teacher at Aliamanu Elementary; son Jonathan is a technical sergeant. C-17 crew chief in the HIANG; and son Michael is a CWO2 Chinook helicopter pilot in the Hawaii Army National Guard deployed in Afghanistan.

She has taught at Aliamanu for more than 40 years and said she absolutely loves the school’s diversity with more than 60 percent military students coming from Doris Miller, Halsey Terrace, Maloelap and parts of Moanalua Terrace housing communities.

Fukumoto started as a language arts teacher in 1967 and did not like teaching math. However in 2003, she attended the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Conference and was exposed to Singapore Math.

“I realized that I had been teaching arithmetic, not mathematics,” she said. She embraced this program and made it her own, designing lessons to incorporate strong visual strategies that help students see, touch and learn abstract math. She uses four models in her math teaching: cause and effect, part-whole, comparison-contrast and sequences.

Her students learn to solve difficult math problems such as: “Andy and Barry saved a total of $368. Cindy and Daisy saved a total of $246. Andy and Daisy had the same amount of savings, while Barry saved five times as much as Cindy. How much did each person save?”

“The math makes my son Christopher think a lot and connect with difficult math ideas,” said Navy spouse, Carronda Alexander.

“The math challenges my daughter Hallie to higher levels of math at an early age – much more advanced than I experienced in fifth grade,” said Master Chief Electronics Technician Steven McKee.

Her students love math. “At first I didn’t like math. Then, although the problems were getting harder, I felt like it was getting easier,” Hallie McKee said.

“Sometimes it’s hard, but when Mrs. Fukumoto teaches it, it becomes easy,” Demetrius Fulwiley added.

“In the beginning math was soooo hard. Now I’m third in my class with Cross-matics (7-12 grade math), Mackenzie Young said.

Several former students of Fukumoto were at the assembly to honor her. Chad Ullery, a student of Fukumoto during school year 2004-2005, remembers all the challenging lessons and said, “You definitely left an impact on me.”

For Fukumoto, it is a labor of love. “I see a genius in every child, and my job is to spark it,” she said.

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