For Immediate Release — March 3, 2022 | Pacific
PACIFIC, REGION — March 3, 2022 — The Department of Defense Education Activity Pacific region is pleased to announce the 2023 District Teachers of the Year for the Pacific East, Pacific South, and Pacific West districts. Congratulations to these three educators, who, along with five other educators, are now in the running for DoDEA Teacher of the Year.
Ms. Rachel Strader has been selected as the 2023 DoDEA Pacific East District Teacher of the Year.
Ms. Strader has served as a DoDEA teacher for more than 10 years and is currently teaching fifth grade at The Sullivans Elementary School in the Pacific East District. Her DoDEA experience also includes teaching at Murray Elementary and Brittin Elementary schools on Ft. Stewart, Ga. Ms. Strader began her teaching career at Thomas D. Gregg Elementary School in Indianapolis, where she formed the foundation for her teaching practices in reaching all learners through a student-centered classroom filled with hands-on learning.
“There are so many things that I enjoy about teaching, but the highlight of every day is watching students progress in a multitude of ways,” Ms. Strader said. “Watching a child’s eyes light up in wonder or hearing the excitement in those little voices while discovering a new concept is the best part of day to day teaching. While seeing students as adults live out their dreams and hearing their success stories is the ultimate joy.”
While with DoDEA, Ms. Strader has stepped into a variety of leadership positions including leading Team Lead, Continuous School Improvement team, committees, and conducting professional development regarding 21st Century Teaching and Learning.
“Being named 2023 District Teacher of the Year is a great honor, especially in a military community where standards and expectations are high,” she said. “I teach with a team of educators that hold me to high standards as we collaborate to develop, deliver, and assess exceptional teaching and learning strategies. I am not alone in this title, but stand with many that push us forward in doing whatever it takes to reach all students.”
Ms. Strader said working with military-connected students is a special honor.
“Each morning as I walk through the gates of the base surrounded by people in uniform I am reminded of the special honor of serving those who defend and protect our freedoms,” she said. “While the parents are fighting for us, it is our duty to provide the best possible education to their children. Military-connected students come to us with an array of needs, but more importantly an array of attributes like resilience, culture, flexibility, and support. It is heart-warming to see the level of engagement that deployed parents offer their children and the strength of the parents at home.”
Ms. Strader is a strong believer in being a lifelong learner. Presently, she is pursuing a Doctor of Education degree in Educational Leadership from Liberty University, Virginia and previously graduated from Liberty University with an Education Specialist degree in Curriculum and Instruction. She also holds a Master of Education degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Indiana Wesleyan University and a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education from Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis.
Dr. Cara Kaiser has been selected to represent the Pacific South District as 2023 Teacher of the Year.
Dr. Kaiser’s teaching experience spans 25 years, 11 years of which have been dedicated to serving students at Lester Middle School in Okinawa, Japan. She currently teaches English Language Arts for sixth and seventh grades. She has also taught reading, learning strategies, and AVID.
“I want my students to know that it is okay to ask questions, investigate, and face the hurdles head on,” Dr. Kaiser said. “I remember that learning does not occur at the same time for every student and that creativity and communication are key to demonstrating understanding. It is my goal to reach each student and build a relationship. This will allow them to take risks, experiment, and persevere if they fail.”
Dr. Kaiser has held various leadership roles, including serving on the DoDEA Pacific South Internal Review Team, Technology Team, and Site Literacy Team. She is currently serving as leader for Continuous School Improvement (CSI), Grade Level Chair, and School Advisory Committee member.
She is a strong advocate of cooperative learning and encourages students to take risks, considering each attempt as an opportunity to learn. She uses hands-on, inquiry-based learning that involves the students in a variety of activities to provide content rich knowledge.
“As teachers, we have been faced with some of the hardest and demanding years of our career,” Dr. Kaiser said. “The global pandemic has forced us to think unconventionally and adjust to ensure teaching and learning. This award validates the challenges that teachers have been faced with. It provides a unique opportunity for me to share ways that my students have overcome and demonstrated achievement. It has also revived in me the reasons that I became a teacher in the first place; to make a difference, influence others, present challenges, build relationships, and help students plan for their future.”
Dr. Kaiser holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Education from Linfield College, Master of Education degree in Technology in Education from Lesley University, and a Doctorate in Leadership in Educational Administration from Capella University.
The DoDEA Pacific West District has selected Mr. Paul Cuaresma as its 2023 Teacher of the Year.
In addition to teaching physics at Guam High School, Mr. Cuaresma also serves as Guam High School’s Science Department Chair, Chemical Hygiene Officer, Junior Science and Humanities (JSHS) sponsor, and Far East Academic Advisor. He has also coached numerous student researchers for Far East STEMinars since 2012 and the JSHS research competition since 2015. In 2020, one of his mentees won the Pacific Regional competition and presented their research nationally.
“The honor of teacher of the year represents the commitment, dedication, and grit that each of my fellow teachers and I go through every day to provide a safe, diverse and positive learning environment for our students,” Mr. Cuaresma said. “To be named the 2023 DoDEA Pacific West teacher of the year is a humble recognition of our efforts."
Mr. Cuaresma believes that all learners deserve equitable access to science learning. He achieves this by focusing on scientific modeling and investigation, providing students broad exposure instead of mastery of concepts.
“I enjoy the challenge of teaching students because it is simply fun,” Mr. Cuaresma said. “Working with students every day to help them develop life skills such as evaluating claims, designing investigations, modeling data, and communicating their arguments and solutions through academic discourse is entertaining. Attending frequent professional learning outside the classroom to improve my craft keeps my heart and mind refreshed, and teaching students keeps me engaged. I thank my students every day for allowing me the chance to practice the art of teaching and set higher goals every year.”
As a DoDEA teacher fulfilling the agency’s mission to educate, engage, and empower military-connected students, Mr. Cuaresma serves and supports service members and their families.
“Our job as teachers to our military-connected students is critical to the mission of the United States Department of Defense,” Mr. Cuaresma said. “Together with the rest of the DoDEA educational system, we provide a safe and reliable environment to help the children of our service members maintain a stable environment to keep home life as optimal as possible. Our service members have a critical job to keep our nation safe, and we are committed to providing their children with the best education available anywhere in the world. I am proud to be a humble part of that system as a mentor our students can trust.”
Mr. Cuaresma holds a Master of Science Degree in Educational and Instructional Technologies from National University in California and a Bachelor of Arts in Secondary Science Education from the University of Guam.
The District Teacher of the Year selectees are considered for the 2023 DoDEA Teacher of the Year award and the finalist competes for National Teacher of the Year. All selectees will also attend the annual DoDEA Teacher of the Year Leadership Summit held at DoDEA Headquarters in September.
DoDEA plans, directs, coordinates, and manages pre-kindergarten through 12th grade education programs for school-aged children of Department of Defense personnel who would otherwise not have access to high-quality public education. DoDEA schools are located in Europe, the Pacific, Western Asia, the Middle East, Cuba, the United States, Guam, and Puerto Rico. DoDEA also provides support and resources to Local Educational Activities throughout the United States that serve children of military families.