We had six of them a year, sometimes more if we took a couple of semester-long classes. Most of them were female but there was a good sprinkling of men among them. Some made us fear being a minute late. Others understood that it took time to shower after PE and haul it to their class within the five-minute grace period, especially if their class was clear across campus.
They were our teachers, experts in their field, educators who gave us the tools we needed to live in our world today. Sometimes during their lessons, they opened a window into their personal lives, showing us that they were human beings too. It was easy to forget that teachers were people.
For the most part, though, they kept things on a very professional level. They were always prepared and accountable for the curriculum they delivered.
In every student’s life, there are one or more teachers or coaches who left a lasting impression. It may have been something the teacher said to guide the student on the right course or the way the teacher interacted with students that made the students feel a connection.
I had several personal favorites in high school, one of whom was Mrs. Yanagisawa, an outstanding English teacher. I didn’t feel an attachment to her nor did I hang around her class after school; she wasn’t that sort of teacher. What I admired about her was that she fed us knowledge like there was no tomorrow. My vocabulary grew because of her and that, in turn, impacted my SAT scores.
What I liked most about Mrs. Yanagisawa was that she earned the respect from each of her students by modeling commitment and work ethic. You couldn’t help but look up to a person who displayed her matter-of-fact teaching style by setting clear expectations and challenging her students’ limits.
During my senior year, I’d see Mrs. Yanagisawa and her young children at home court basketball games. She supported the athletic program at Kaimuki with her quiet presence. I’m sure she would have preferred to spend evenings at home with her family but there she was in the stands, applauding when Daniel Arruda made yet another basket.
Thank you, Mrs. Yanagisawa, for being my inspiration. It’s been thirty years since I last saw you, but I haven’t forgotten the impression you’ve made in my life. I can only aspire to be the teacher you once were to me.