The Presidential Award means that our nation recognizes the need for all students to benefit from quality mathematics education and validates my philosophy that mathematics should be accessible to all. Mathematics is not an exclusive club that demands high test scores or memorized facts for entry. My class should be a place where students feel safe to explore and make mistakes. Students should ask questions and share ideas about how mathematics can help make sense of the world around them.

Daphne Okunaga Pearl City, HI | 7-12, Mathematics, 2017

The official biography below was current at the time of the award.

Daphne Okunaga has been an educator for 14 years, spending her career at Pearl City High School. She currently teaches 10-12th-grade Algebra 2, Algebra 3/Precalculus, and Introduction to College Mathematics. Daphne was part of the pilot group to teach the Introduction to College Mathematics (ICM) course and was able to present at the Hawaii Council of Teachers of Mathematics conference about making mathematics relatable for non-STEM students. She develops projects that make mathematics meaningful for students and emphasizes financial literacy. Daphne’s passion for mathematics goes beyond the classroom. She is the academic advisor for the football program, serves as a consultant to the American Institutes for Research for the Smarter Balanced Assessment and End of Course Exam, and serves as a teacher mentor for other ICM teachers throughout the state. As the mathematics chairperson for five years, International Business and Design Academy Lead, and Hope Street Group Education fellow, Daphne uses social media and networking to advocate for making mathematics relevant for all students. Daphne earned a B.A., cum laude, in business administration from Oregon State University, an M.B.A, summa cum laude, from Hawai’i Pacific University, and an M.Ed., summa cum laude, from the University of Phoenix. She is certified in secondary mathematics.