The student news site of Stillwater Area High School

Pupungatoa nominated as Education Minnesota Teacher of the Year candidate

March 10, 2017

Press Photo Stillwater Schools

Press Photo Stillwater Schools

Katy Pupungatoa is a teacher at  Oak-Land junior high school. She is a mother of six and teacher to almost every student who went to Oak-Land junior high. Pupungatoa works as a science teacher has earned herself a shot at becoming the Education Minnesota Teacher of the Year 2017.

Pupungatoa has been teaching for 22 years and for 20 years at Oak-Land, she has also been the coach of  the Oak-Land Science Bowl teams since the year 2009. Pupungatoa is a determined and dedicated teacher who loves her work and puts all her time and effort into making sure she gets the best out of every student.

Pupungatoa never stops trying to be a better teacher and has learned a lot from the incredible teachers, counselors, support staff and administrators that she has worked with in the past and continue to work with.

Pupungatoa was a nominee for the 2017 Education Minnesota Teacher of the Year awards and was nominated by her friend and fellow science teacher Rebecca Gauker. Pupungatoa has  been teaching with Gauker for the past five years and has also taught both of Gauker’s kids who are currently at the high school.

Paupaugatoa said, “I love my job! I feel l am blessed to have a job I love. I feel the most important thing that I do is to help students find joy in learning. I hope that I can show them that learning can be fun and that learning about science will help them understand the world around them. I also feel that the relationships I have with my students are very important. I want them to feel that they can be themselves when they walk into my classroom. I value each and every one of my students.”

She spends quite a bit of time outside of school preparing for lessons and correcting students. Pupungatoa said, “I spend 15 to 20 hours a week outside of school. I love finding new ideas to make my lessons more engaging for my students.”

She is an upbeat teacher who always tries to engage students and work with them and make learning science a fun experience that they want to and love to get involved in.

Junior Charlie Richman said, “She is a very nice teacher that does her best to makes classes I personally don’t love pretty fun.”

By having the ability to connect with students during lectures and sharing some personal stories and having discussions, no other teacher matched her tenacity, she has impacted a lot of her students.

Junior Ava Yokanovich said, “Mrs. Pupungatoa taught in a way that was very simple for me to learn. For my older sister, Mrs. Pupungatoa was the teacher that made her love science. She’s now a biochemistry major at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.”

Yokanovich added, “I think Mrs. Pupungatoa will have a positive impact on the science department when she comes to the high school next year.”

Pupungatoa is set to make it to the high school next year as an addition to the science department and most students she has had in the past think that she is going to be a great addition.

Senior Danielle Snow said, “Mrs. Pupungatoa coming to the high school next year will be beneficial not only because of her knowledge and background of chemistry, but this way she can watch the kids she teaches as freshmen learn and grow all the way until senior year.”

Mrs. Pupungatoa coming to the high school next year will be beneficial not only because of her knowledge and background of chemistry, but this way she can watch the kids she teaches as freshmen learn and grow all the way until senior year.”

— Danielle Snow

She has been mentioned as a mentor who knows what she is teaching and tries to create a personal bond with her students. Just as much as she loves helping students, she also loves helping fellow teachers with their works.

Pupungatoa said, “I know that if I help my fellow teachers, I am indirectly helping students. I feel that a teacher who loves what they do can inspire the students they teach. As a mentor, I want to support teachers in whatever way I can to help them share their passion.”

Junior Mason Schwerzler said, “Mrs. Pupungatoa is one of the nicest human beings out there. She is always on task and always has something positive to say.”

She gets students interested in science and in that way it inspires her to want to make a difference in their lives, whether that is to support them academically or to be that person in their lives who treats them with kindness and a smile. Also her own children have truly impacted her  teaching in a positive way, they have helped her to be a more emphatic teacher.

Pupungatoa explained, “I think being patient with students as they learn is very important. I truly believe every student can learn with the right support system. I try to provide the support students need in order to be successful. I also feel that recognizing that students have lives outside of school and acknowledging the impact that this may have on their ability to be successful in the classroom. But at the same time, I encourage them to look to the future and see what is that they want out of life and how their education may help them achieve their dreams.”

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