Math Teacher Betty Yamasaki Wins Teacher of the Year Award


Photo courtesy of Betty Yamasaki.

By Jocelyn Maeyama, Staff Writer

Math teacher Betty Yamasaki received the 2017 Teacher of the Year Award for the MVLA School District and was honored at an awards ceremony last month, for her prioritization of individual student success.

As the Math Department Coordinator, Yamasaki eased the math department through the transition to Common Core curriculum and rose to the challenges set by Principal Wynne Satterwhite to get all students to pass Geometry, then Algebra II. She also helped incorporate new classes into Los Altos’ curriculum, including the computer science courses, the Math Essentials course and three engineering courses.

While Yamasaki currently teaches Algebra I, Algebra I Enhanced and Math Essentials, she has taught every college preparatory level of math from pre-algebra to calculus in her 22 years teaching in the MVLA School District.

When asked what she did to receive the award, Yamasaki was quick to attribute the achievement to the school.

“It’s not me,” Yamasaki said. “Honestly, I think it’s a representation of what I received here. Ms. Satterwhite’s philosophy that the wellness of the student matters and having this common goal is a message she’s given me over the course of the years I’ve been here, and I think that’s why I got the award.”

But Yamasaki’s former student senior Maddy Dees said she believes the award was given to Yamasaki due to her commitment to her students.  Maddy took Yamasaki’s Math Essentials class last year, a course designed to prepare students for placement tests at junior colleges, along with incorporating real-world math.

“She always found time to help me specifically even though she had a class full of 30 kids,” Maddy said.

Maddy said Yamasaki pushed her to challenge herself and learn more than in other math classes she had taken, asking her to take on more difficult problems to develop her skills. Maddy also said she loves Yamasaki’s passion for teaching and helping her students.

“Anyone can see how much she genuinely cares about kids and teaching,” Maddy said. “She’s always in a good and happy mood which makes my day and makes the subject that much better.”

Yamasaki’s work as Math Department Coordinator also exemplifies her commitment to teaching. Math teacher Eunice Lee said she was “phenomenal” in her leadership skills and adding her own personal touches to the role.

“It’s not an easy role to take on, but she did it with professionalism and hard work,” Lee said in an email. “She would always attend meetings and share information with us in a timely manner. In addition, she made sure to remember our birthdays and organized mini celebrations throughout the school year.”