HSTA honors Ewa teacher, and Aiea soccer coach with awards

Local News

HONOLULU (KHON2) — HSTA has honored two teachers with awards.

Ilima Intermediate STEM teacher Sarah “Mili” Milianta-Laffin got a Pono Award for her dedication to social justice advocate, and whose work engages fellow educators, parents, and the community.

Aiea soccer coach Scot Yamashita got the Friend of Youth Award for going beyond his professional duties to demonstrate a significant impact on Hawaii’s youth.


Ilima Intermediate STEM teacher Sarah “Mili” Milianta-Laffin – Pono Award
HSTA says the stay-at-home turned safer-at-home orders due to the coronavirus pandemic haven’t stopped Ilima Intermediate STEM teacher Sarah “Mili” Milianta-Laffin from doing everything she can to support her students and her community during this difficult time.

Recognizing the gap in distance learning among students, she’s working with educators and community groups to deploy Wifi on Wheels, a bus that provides internet access for families in remote and underserved areas.

Milianta-Laffin used two 3-D printers she acquired for her school’s STEM lab through a Hawaii State Department of Education Innovation Grant to fill a critical need during the pandemic: printing personal protective equipment, or PPE, for first responders and health care workers. She and a group of other public-school teachers organized to make almost 4,000 masks for health care providers at Hawaii Pacific Health, which has hospitals and clinics on four islands throughout the state.

Milianta-Laffin has been the faculty sponsor for the Rainbow Royales, Ilima Intermediate’s gender and sexuality alliance (GSA), since 2018. Over the past two years, her students have championed issues of equity and inclusion on campus, at neighborhood board meetings, and at the Hawaii State Capitol. The Rainbow Royales were recently named 2020 GSA of the Year by GLSEN, a national organization that promotes safe and inclusive schools for all students, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.

This type of passion and drive to action prompted the HSTA to select Miliana-Laffin as the 2020 Pono Award recipient. HSTA President Corey Rosenlee said, “Mili represents the best of what teachers have to offer. She wants to bring out the best in her students while transforming education for all keiki. With her boundless energy, I know she will achieve both goals.”

Scot and his daughter. COURTESY: SCOT YAMASHITA

Scot Yamashita – Friend of Youth Award

HSTA says Scot Yamashita has been volunteering as an AYSO soccer coach for 14 years.

He was nominated by Sharel Kasai, a Webling Elementary School teacher and member of HSTA’s Central Chapter. Kasai says Scot has guided more than a thousand players over the years, not just as a coach but as a mentor who instills strong values in his athletes.

“I met Coach Scot when my son signed up to play soccer at the end of last school year,” Kasai wrote. “His goal with many of the children, especially with the teens who are facing challenges at home, is to offer a fun and safe outlet to develop self-esteem, trust, and confidence.”

Yamashita began coaching in 2006 for his son’s soccer team. “We live in Aiea and I wanted to be more involved with supporting the community. Volunteering to coach soccer gave me that opportunity and allowed me to spend more time with my children,” Yamashita said.

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