Big Island Teacher Finalist in Dream Big Challenge

October 1, 2018, 12:29 PM HST
* Updated October 2, 7:50 AM
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A Big Island teacher and two others from Hawai‘i public schools are each vying for $100,000 in educational grants to fund innovative projects to engage students and enhance learning at their schools.

Leimamo Lind-Strauss of Ho‘okena Elementary School, Ryan Chatfield of Aiea High School and Zachary Morita of Niu Valley Middle School are among 15 finalists nationwide for the Thank America’s Teachers Dream Big Teacher Challenge sponsored by Farmers Insurance. The program awards more than $1 million annually in grants to teachers.

The five finalists nationally who garner the most votes online from the public between Oct. 1 and 31 will each win $100,000 for their proposals.

To vote, go to and locate the Hawai‘i finalists (listed alphabetically). You may vote for each finalist once per day throughout the month of October using a valid email address.

Hawai‘i has three finalists in the running for “Dream Big” grants through Farmers Insurance: (L–R) Ryan Chatfield of Aiea High, Leimamo Lind-Strauss of Ho‘okena Elementary and Zachary Morita of Niu Valley Middle. PC: Hawai‘i Department of Education


Here’s a look at Hawai‘i’s finalists and their grant pitches:

  • Leimamo Lind-Strauss, a third-grade teacher at Ho‘okena Elementary on the Big Island, envisions creating a telescope observatory at her school. The observatory would serve as a centralized classroom for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Design, and Math (STEAM), and allow students to study the skies with hands-on astronomy. The observatory would host family nights to engage the community.
  • Ryan Chatfield, a health science teacher at Aiea High, envisions developing the Health Science Student Development Center at her school. An existing building would be renovated and transformed into a center where students can gain experience and explore the healthcare field with professionals, learn clinical skills and teach important health skills to the community. The community would benefit from increased access to, and knowledge about, healthcare.
  • Zachary Morita, a music teacher at Niu Valley Middle, envisions creating the Niu Valley Music Olympic Invitational. The event would bring together student and professional musicians from various instrumental mediums to perform in a live competitive setting. The competition would provide opportunities for students to be recognized for their hard work and talents while also enriching the community.

“We are proud and excited to support our three teachers in the running for these highly sought-after grants to help enrich the learning environments at their schools and engage students,” said Superintendent Dr. Christina Kishimoto.

“I encourage all of our HIDOE ‘ohana—teachers, students, parents, staff—and everyone in our communities to vote online daily through October to make these grants a reality for Ryan, Leimamo, Zachary and their students. Last year’s winner, Stevenson Middle science teacher Patricia Morgan, shows Hawai‘i has what it takes to win.”

Farmers Insurance reviewed hundreds of proposals from teachers nationwide before selecting 15 finalists through a competitive review process to advance to the public voting phase. The insurer expects to announce the five winners in December.


“These teachers embody everything we celebrate on World Teacher’s Day Oct. 5, and I urge the Hawai‘i community and the entire nation to vote to help make their big dreams a reality,” said Melanie Joseph, marketing manager for Farmers Insurance Hawai‘i.


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