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Three UH Hilo faculty honored for excellence in teaching

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Date: Wednesday, May 22, 2002
Contact: Dr. Christopher Lu, (808) 974-7707

For Immediate Release

The University of Hawai'i at Hilo honored three faculty members as the recipients of this school year's prestigious excellence in teaching awards during Spring 2002 commencement exercises held on May 18. Dr. Michael Bitter, assistant professor of history, received the UH Board of Regents Award for Excellence in Teaching by a full-time faculty member. Dr. Yoshiko Okuyama, assistant professor of Japanese, received the Frances Davis Award for Excellence in Teaching by a junior faculty member. Mr. Robin Takahashi, instructor of health and physical education, was honored with the Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching by an instructor or lecturer.

Bitter has been a faculty member at UH Hilo since August 1999. "It is clear that he has very solid teaching evaluations that are significantly above the norm in tough courses and that he makes history real in the classroom," UH President Dr. Evan Dobelle said. "Students have described Dr. Bitter as very knowledgeable, willing to listen and accessible to them in and out of the classroom."

Regents Allan Ikawa and Dr. Billy Bergin made the presentation to Bitter. "The role of the professor is never to be underestimated," Ikawa said. "For it is the professor who informs, enlightens and inspires. Teaching isn't easy; it's art and science together, and a calling to dedication, patience and creativity.

"Dr. Bitter has answered this call exceptionally well." Okuyama has been part of the UH Hilo faculty since August 1998. Dr. Kenith Simmons, professor of English and chair of UH Hilo's Humanities Division, joined Okuyama's students in nominating her for the award. "Reading a dossier like Dr. Okuyama's does a Division Chair's heart proud," Simmons said. "As an instructor, she is exemplary. In the majority of her classes during the 1999-2000 academic year, she was rated at the highest rank by every student in the class on the Perceived Teaching Effectiveness Form. In addition to her teaching, she has a strong research program and an impressive record of service activities. She has made herself a very valuable member of the community in every aspect of her professional life."

Takahashi started at UH Hilo in August 1992, but was associated with the University long before that as a strength and conditioning coach for the Vulcan Athletic Department.

"His enthusiasm for teaching, the great amount of effort he puts not only into his courses but into his advising, and the motivation he provides his students were noted by the committee, as was his modesty when discussing his teaching," UH Hilo Chancellor Dr. Rose Tseng said. "His modest statements stood in contrast to those of his nominators, another indication of why he works so well with his students."

Dr. Christopher Lu, vice chancellor for academic affairs, who presided over the presentations, said that all three recipients were eminently worthy. "Teaching is a critical component of all universities since it is the faculty who interact with students the most," Lu said. "When faculty demonstrate excellence in their teaching, we celebrate their enormous achievement."

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