Aaron Loque has blended his interest in history and his love of coaching youngsters into an apparent recipe for success.
The 34-year-old Maui Waena Intermediate social studies teacher was recently named 2013 Maui District Teacher of the Year.
"It could have been anybody. It just so happened it was me," Loque said about his honor. "Our campus as well as the rest of the district, I know there is a lot of great educators."
Maui Waena Intermediate School teacher Aaron Loque explains an assignment to his class Thursday afternoon. The 34-year-old social studies teacher recently was named Maui District Teacher of the Year for 2013.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
The former college baseball player who has volunteered at baseball clinics and continues to coach and enjoyed learning about the Roman empire in college said he likes to help children learn and better themselves.
"One thing I learned, you teach character as well," he said about his profession.
Loque and other teachers of the year for Hawaii's various school districts were honored on Oahu recently. At the gathering, Karen Kutsunai of Kailua Intermediate on Oahu was named the Hawaii Teacher of the Year.
In Loque's recommendation letter for the teacher of the year program, Principal Jamie Yap wrote: "He is a model teacher someone who I would consider a 'Master Teacher' at such a young career."
Yap said in addition to working with his students, Loque has served on the school's Western Association of Schools & Colleges Accreditation Committee for two visits and has demonstrated leadership skills serving as the Social Studies Department head and summer credit recovery supervisor.
Yap added that Loque's "commitment to excellence" can be seen in his classroom where he uses different strategies to address students' learning styles.
But Loque, who has been teaching for 10 years, said that finding those right strategies to help students learn is one of the most challenging things about his job.
"It's constant organizing and changing or modifying the instruction," he said. "Every kid learns differently."
Loque added that another challenge is keeping up with the Adequate Yearly Progress exams as well as the Hawaii State Assessment annual testing program.
He said it is challenging for both the students and teachers.
"We try and encourage them as much as possible to do their best. The kids try hard, even though you see them burning out."
In his essay for the honor, Loque said the "high stakes testing" standards students are held to do not focus on the learner. With the focus being in reading and mathematics, schools are often forced to implement ways of focusing their attention to developing students in these two subject areas, he wrote.
"What has been left out has been the development of the rest of the student, thus lacking the sense of molding the 'whole child.' "
He added that teachers are often evaluated on these test scores, but he suggests evaluation should be a combination of observations, evaluations and student achievement.
But the Waikapu resident said teachers at the Kahului intermediate school have also engaged in fun project-based learning for the students.
Recently the school held a mock debate with one teacher posing as Democratic President Barack Obama and another teacher posing as Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
Loque, who teaches 7th-grade Hawaiian studies and Pacific Island studies, excitedly said the teachers were able to teach the entire student body about the Electoral College process.
Earlier this week, Loque looked at his mock Electoral College board and said it predicted that Obama would be the winner.
Loque is a Lahainaluna High School graduate and received his Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in geography and a minor in history from the University of Hawaii at Hilo. He was a walk-on player on its baseball team.
Later, Loque received his post-baccalaureate teacher certification in secondary education from the University of Phoenix, Maui Campus, and in 2008 he received a master's degree in education in curriculum studies in middle-level education from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
From 2001 to 2002, Loque taught 6th-grade social studies and science at Kalama Intermediate. He has been at Maui Waena since November 2002.
He is married and has two children.
Loque said he enjoys teaching and had the privilege to be influenced and mentored by other teachers when he first started.
He added that he has a lot of relatives who are educators, and the allure of having summers off and a short day during the week, leaving him time to coach, were all alluring to him.
But he said he always liked to work with children and worked at the county's Summer PALS programs during the summer as well as coached teams and helped at baseball clinics.
Loque said he doesn't mind teaching students who are in transition physically and mentally in intermediate school, although it does come with some challenges.
"I like it. It's always interesting," he said.
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.