SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii (Oct. 18, 2013) -- Fifth-grade teacher Teresa Cramer was recently named the 2014 Central District Teacher of the Year.

Cramer has been a special education teacher at Hale Kula for the past nine years, and she co-teaches in two different classrooms.

She works closely with all students in the classroom to ensure that they can achieve success academically, socially and emotionally.

The State Teacher of the Year will be announced Oct. 25 during a ceremony at Washington Place. At that time, Cramer will be competing against other district teachers of the year from around the state.

A few years ago, Cramer and her co-teaching partner started an organic gardening project that has grown to focus on environmental stewardship. Campus visitors will notice the Hope Garden, which teaches students about sustainability and integrates different content area subjects through this project.

Students measure out the plots and determine area plantings; they learn the scientific process through different experiments, which they research. Art, social studies, language arts and technology are all included.

For many students, the Hope Garden is their reason to come to school, and there is no shortage of volunteers when Cramer asks for assistance after school, on weekends or during school breaks.

Students are also raising sea urchins in a classroom aquarium; these urchins are later released to combat invasive algae that are destroying Hawaii's reefs.

Students learn to be important contributors to the community through the Hope Garden. They have voted to use their profits from the sale of vegetables, herbs and flowers to the homeless or to victims of disasters.

Students also lead tours for the community or teach others how to make mini worm bins as part of U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii's Earth Day activities. Cramer trains the students to be effective communicators, and even shy students gain confidence through participation.

Cramer has been an important member of the Hale Kula community. She has served on the leadership team, as a teacher representative on the school community council, as a focus group co-chairperson for accreditation and as the Garden Club advisor. More importantly, she is an advocate for her students and is committed to finding ways to engage them in their learning and to motivate them to do their best.

(Editor's note: Iwase is the principal at Hale Kula Elementary School.)