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Hawaii Teacher of the Year Award Winners

Dara Tawarahara, 2020 HAHPERD TOY for Elementary Physical Education

Dara Tawarahara, who is affectionately known as "Ms. T" by her students, serves Helemano Elementary School as an inspiration and positive role model for physical literacy. As a Physical Education teacher and coach, she encourages all students to develop a strong foundation of movement and positive self-esteem that supports healthy and active lifestyles. Dara's student-centered approach is inclusive of all students and connects with their diverse needs and interests. She regularly motivates students through the use of guiding questions, music, technology, and opportunities for self-assessment. Dara advocates for healthy students and healthy schools, which led to increased brain breaks in class and improved recess opportunities. By improving students' access to recess activities and equipment, students are more ready to learn in class. Her efforts boosted school faculty morale and healthy living through an after school wellness club and staff wellness challenges. Dara contributes to the broader community by volunteering and participating in state and district opportunities, such as Children and Youth Day and fitness events. She also shares her engaging lessons with educators beyond her school by opening her classroom for observations. Mahalo, Dara, for your outstanding contributions to Physical Education!

Jessica Adkins, 2020 HAHPERD TOY for High School Physical Education

Jessica Adkins serves Maui High School through her leadership as a Physical Education teacher, department head, and coach. Jessica intentionally designs her lessons to help students from all backgrounds and ability levels to succeed by developing social and emotional learning, positive student interactions, and discussions where all perspectives are valued and respected. Jessica empowers students to develop their voice through her courses, which includes a Unified Leadership Physical Education class. With her guidance, the Unified Leadership students organized youth sports days for neighboring elementary students. Jessica integrates the use of technology, such as Google Classroom and heart rate monitors, to enhance her students' learning experiences in Physical Education. She contributes to her community as an active, positive role model by volunteering for youth clinics and fitness days. Jessica also actively participates in the Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools program as a Youth Ambassador Mentor and Head of Delegation and consults with educators within and beyond the state of Hawai'i who are interested in bringing this program to their schools. Mahalo, Jessica, for all you do to support your students' physical literacy!

Hawaii Teacher of the Year Application Information

HAHPERD’s Hawai‘i State Teacher of the Year Program recognizes outstanding teachers in the following award categories:

  • Physical Education - Elementary

  • Physical Education - Middle School

  • Physical Education - High School

  • Adapted Physical Education

  • School Health Education

  • Dance Education

Eligibility Requirements

Educators who meet the eligibility requirements and exemplify the criteria for these awards may apply for one of the HAHPERD Teacher of the Year awards.

  • Current HAHPERD membership

  • Minimum five years of teaching experience in the award category

  • Degree and certification in teaching in the award category

  • Full-time teaching position at the time of application submission and selection (Note: Retired teachers are not eligible)

  • Minimum of 50% of total job responsibilities is teaching in the award category at the time of application and selection


To be considered during the 2023 Hawai'i State Teacher of the Year Award selection process, ALL required application materials must be submitted by TBA (usually in February). Please check back soon!

The application packet will be updated on a yearly basis but if you would like information about what has been required in the past for the 2022 TOY please see the following information: bit.ly/2022HAHPERDTOY  (Revised 10/2021)

Updated information for 2023 year will be posted in the near future.   

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