Peter B. Loken, a sixth grade teacher at Garapan Elementary School, was named yesterday as the 2013 CNMI Teacher of the Year, which will allow him to travel and represent local teachers in national conferences in the U.S. mainland, including a meeting with President Barrack Obama at the White House next year.
Loken bested 18 other outstanding public school teachers in the Commonwealth to win the prestigious award. This was his first time to be nominated since joining the Garapan school in 2007.
Overwhelmed by the recognition, Loken said the honor is unexpected but also a source of pride and joy.
Loken was chosen by his GES peers in May to represent them in the statewide search for Teacher of the Year. He was adjudged among the top five finalists in September, resulting in competition judges visiting him for classroom observations.
Yesterday, Loken received his plaque of recognition from Education Commissioner Rita A. Sablan Ed.D, and State Board of Education members after the traditional runaround during the Education Day celebration where they announce the “surprise” awardee.
Loken was also presented with a congressional commendation from Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP).
“I felt good about the whole process—the classroom visit and the interview I did. But I have no idea that they’re coming here today [on campus]. I was really surprised!” Loken told reporters later.
Loken, 32, is father to a 5-month-old baby and is husband to Megan Loken, also a classroom mentor at GES. He obtained his bachelor’s degree in psychology in Minnesota and moved to Saipan to join the public school’s teaching workforce. Since relocating on island, Loken worked on his master’s degree in education, which he finally received in May from the Framingham State University.
If given the opportunity to share about CNMI schools at the national level, Loken said he will talk about the many good things that are happening on the islands.
“There are so many great things in the CNMI and working with PSS is a fun and learning opportunity, not only for the kids but for teachers. For me, our community, the atmosphere, and culture is something you can’t find elsewhere. I’ve traveled around quite a bit, and I can say…this is where I want to be and I want to stay,” he said.
In this time of large class sizes in public schools, Loken bared his secret: “My teaching philosophy [because we have many students this year] is I try to help them teach themselves, which is beneficial not only to the classroom but for the rest of their lives because they learn to work with each other, learn cooperative skills, and team work,” he said.
In an earlier interview with Saipan Tribune, Loken said he never fails to makes sure that each of his student is well informed that education is their responsibility and teachers are there just to provide guidance and assistance to make sure they will succeed.
Loken is the second teacher from GES to bag the overall award. Former fourth grade teacher Brenda Schultz also won the award for the school in 2003.
GES principal Paulette Sablan described Loken as a true educator who provides a lot of hands-on, meaningful, and inspirational types of teaching strategies to students. Loken, she said, is a real blessing for the Mallard family.