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Yuuko Arikawa, a reading coach at Kaala Elementary School in Wahiawa, was named Hawaii’s 2010 Milken Family Foundation National Educator Award winner in a ceremony this morning.
The award recognizes the nation’s top teachers. Winners get $25,000 that they can use any way they want.
Arikawa was surprised in an assembly this morning at the school. When her name was announced, students started screaming and clapping and Arikawa started bawling.
"I don’t know if I can speak," she told the gathered students, teachers and Department of Education administrators, around tears. "I just love my job. Thank you."
Arikawa, 33, is credited with helping Kaala pull up their reading test scores dramatically. Over the last four years, the school’s scores have skyrocketed by 19 percentage points.
After the assembly, Arikawa said other teachers at the school deserved the award and praised the school’s administration for helping the campus improve.
Arikawa, who has four children, added that she already has ideas on where to spend her award money: Some of it will go to help cover her 13-year-old daughter’s class trip to Europe this summer. Some of it will probably go to Arikawa’s car, which has recently been acting up.