Teacher at school in Waikiki receives top honor from the state

Matthew Lawrence of Waikiki Elementary School was named 2014 State Teacher of the Year, with the announcement made at a ceremony at Washington Place on Friday.

The 12-year educator “inspires his students through creative hands-on projects,” a news release said.

The state’s top teaching award is presented annually to a classroom teacher in the state public school system. Lawrence was among seven District Teachers of the Year, also recognized at the ceremony which included Gov. Neil Abercrombie and state schools Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi.

The Maui District Teacher of the Year was Anthony Williams of Paia Elementary School.

“We can all remember the one educator who left a lasting impact on us,” said Matayoshi. “When students from Kauai to Hawaii Island think of that one person, many will credit these seven exceptional teachers for opening doors and helping make dreams a reality.”

At Waikiki Elementary, Lawrence’s students build climbing walls, solar powered go-carts and model homes and tennis ball launchers.

When a power outage occurred at the school, the lights stayed on in Lawrence’s classroom thanks to a student-built bicycle generator that powered six bulbs, a Department of Education news release said.

In 2007, Lawrence launched a science fair to provide students a venue to share their experiments and creations with their peers and families.

A national board-certified teacher, Lawrence earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education with middle school endorsement from the University of Illinois, and a master’s degree in educational psychology from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

He has taught math and science at Waikiki Elementary since 2001 and served as the School Community Council chairman from 2006 to 2011. He also is a mentor teacher with the University of Hawaii undergraduate teaching program.

Lawrence will represent Hawaii in the National Teacher of the Year Program in the spring. In addition to the honor, he received a $500 award, which was awarded to each district winner by the Polynesian Cultural Center; an additional $1,000 for winning state honors; instructional software from SMART Technologies, which each district teacher winner got; and a one-year lease on a new car from the Hawaii Automobile Dealers’ Association.