The Milken Family Foundation recently presented one of its prestigious awards – often called “the Oscars of teaching” – to Chaminade University graduate Peter Kai Mana Nakoa, an instructor at Nānākuli Elementary School.

Affectionately known by his students as “Kumu Kai Mana,” Nakoa was named “Teacher of Promise” for the Nānākuli/Waiʻanae Complex and Leeward District. He is also the first Hawaiian Language Immersion Education teacher to win this award.

Since graduating from Chaminade in May 2015 with a master of arts degree in teaching, Nakoa has assumed additional leadership roles at his school. This includes joining a cohort that’s integrating technology in the classroom to support a Digital Common Core Curriculum.

Nakoa credits Chaminade with providing a solid understanding of the latest teaching methods – including the use of digital technology – that help his students excel in innovative ways.

“I was able to apply what I learned in my classes and use it with my current students at the time and get real results and data that I could then use to drive my instruction,” Nakoa says.

And after learning to use online platforms for completing and submitting his Chaminade assignments, Nakoa applied that tech knowledge at Nānākuli Elementary.

“It has given me the confidence to integrate different forms of technology in my classroom as part of my curriculum and approach in teaching my students,” Nakoa says, “and how to support my students’ families when they go home.”

Another benefit of his Chaminade education, Nakoa says, is learning how to adapt his teaching methods for multiple grade levels.

“Because I teach combination and multiple grades at one time, learning how to differentiate my instruction really does help me to address all benchmarks and standards for all my students, regardless of their grades,” Nakoa says.

And that has become key, he says, “to ensuring that all my students succeed and holomua (progress).”

The Milken Educator Awards, an initiative of the Milken Family Foundation, honor top teachers across the country who inspire excellence in the world of education. Candidates are chosen through a confidential selection process, reviewed by panels appointed by the state departments of education, and given final approval by the Milken Family Foundation.

The Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program is part of the Division of Education. The program is designed for students who graduated with a Bachelor’s degree and are seeking licensure to teach. The Master of Arts in Teaching includes these state-approved teacher licensure programs: Elementary Education with Licensure, Secondary Education with Licensure (with emphasis in Math, Science, English or Social Studies), Special Education and Early Childhood Education with Licensure. Chaminade University’s undergraduate and graduate education degree programs are accredited by the Hawai’i Teacher Standards Board. The Montessori Program is accredited by the Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education and affiliated with the American Montessori Society.