U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono has invited a Waiakea High School teacher and 2022 National Teacher of the Year finalist to be her virtual guest during President Biden’s State of the Union address on Tuesday, the senator’s office said in a news release Monday.

Whitney Aragaki, the 2022 Hawaii State Teacher of the Year, was recognized last month as one of four finalists for the national honor. The veteran Hilo-based educator teaches biology and environmental science at Waiakea High on Hawaii island and is also an instructor for the Hawaii Virtual Learning Network E-School.

In a statement, Hirono commended Aragaki for her achievement and contributions to the community.

Whitney Aragaki, Hawaii Department of Education, Teacher of Year
Waiakea High science teacher Whitney Aragaki Courtesy: Hawaii DOE

“As someone who attended Hawaii public schools, I understand how important it is to have educators who are not only competent, but caring, and dedicated to fostering a supportive learning environment and encouraging students’ creativity and growth,” Hirono said.

Aragaki is currently in Washington, D.C., as part of the National Teacher of the Year program. She plans to meet with the senator on Tuesday.

Aragaki called it a “a once in a lifetime” opportunity to be Hirono’s virtual guest for the State of the Union — Biden’s first since taking office.

“While I will be attending from a remote location, I feel the energy in the city and know that it will permeate through the computer screen,” Aragaki said via email.

All members of Congress are invited to attend in-person the address at the U.S. Capitol but not allowed in-person guests in keeping with pandemic-related restrictions.

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