Teacher of The Year Finalist Invited as Virtual Guest to Tonight’s State of The Union Address

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The Big Island’s own Hawaii Teacher of the Year has an front-row virtual seat to tonight’s State of the Union Address.

U.S. Sen. Mazie K. Hirono invited Whitney Aragaki, a biology and environmental science teacher at Waiākea High School in Hilo, to be her virtual guest for President Joe Biden’s speech on Tuesday, March 1.

“I’m so happy to have Whitney as my virtual guest to the President’s State of the Union and I’d like to congratulate her for being recognized as the 2022 Hawai‘i State Teacher of the Year,” Hirono stated in a news release Monday, Feb. 28. “It is an incredible achievement and I want to express my gratitude for all of her substantial contributions — both in and outside of the classroom—to her school, students, and community.


Aragaki was recognized in December as the 2022 Hawai‘i State Teacher of the Year by the Hawai‘i State Department of Education. She is currently one of four finalists being considered for the 2022 National Teacher of the Year.

Aragaki currently teaches biology and environmental science. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in biology from Swarthmore College and a Master of Science in tropical conservation biology and environmental science from the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. She is currently pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy, with a focus in curriculum and instruction, from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa College of Education.

“Whitney Aragaki supports students to learn through a lens of abundance that honors place, people and cultures,” her bio reads on the Council of Chief State School Officers website that announces her finalist award. “Her teaching focuses around conversations, practices and systems that sustain the intimate inter-relationship of public education, community and environment.”


Aragaki has also taught for the statewide Hawaii Virtual Learning Network’s E-School since 2013. She is the lead teacher of the Waiākea High Public Services Academy and also created the peer-to-peer “Warrior Professional Learning Community” at Waiakea High. She aims to provide equitable access to environmental science and computer science courses across the state.

Waiākea High School is Aragaki’s alma mater. 

“As someone who attended Hawai‘i public schools, I understand how important it is to have educators who are not only competent, but caring, and dedicated to fostering a supportive learning environment and encouraging students’ creativity and growth,” Hirono stated.


The State of the Union Addresss, Biden’s first, is at 4 p.m. HST.

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