Episode 22 – Mika Yamamoto


MikaYamamotoImage“I had this great mentor, a literacy mentor, and she was creating a lesson plan with me. We were doing a lesson plan to ‘Dream the Impossible Dream…” says Mika Yamamoto. “And in the process she made me articulate my impossible dream, and that was when I was in this terrible abusive marriage that I wasn’t even admitting to myself… and I closed my eyes and flung my eyes open and said, ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t!’ …”

“And what making that lesson taught me,” Mika continues, “was you can’t teach unless you [do] what you ask your students to do. That is really hard, but really exciting. And so, I think teaching saved my life because if I hadn’t made that lesson plan, if I hadn’t had that mentor guiding me through and not letting me off the hook, then maybe I wouldn’t be where I am now…. Which isn’t to say that was easy, which isn’t to say that teaching is easy, and it’s not, it’s not easy – but it’s amazing, it’s constantly life-changing. So if you want to live with integrity, it’s a great profession.”

Fast Facts about Mika

– Any resources you would like to share: Teaching Tolerance
– Your favorite book: Professional: Harry Wong and Personal: Bird, by Noy Holland
– Current position: unemployed
– City, State: Chicago, IL (this is where we moved to a month ago because mid-Michigan became too unbearable after the election)
– One sentence answering the question, why teach?: It’s fun.

  1. Full name: Mika Yamamoto
  2. Years teaching: 7
  3. Grades taught: 1st, 5th, 6th
  4. Current city: Chicago, Il
  5. Favorite resources:
  6. Why teach: “It’s fun!”
  7. Follow Mika on Twitter @MikaYamamoto

Noteworthy Outtakes from Mika’s Chat

Listen in as Mika takes listeners on a teaching journey that includes everything from moving and transferring her teaching credential between multiple states, being awakened to the need to leave her abusive marriage through the beauty of teaching, the struggles of being a single mom in the teaching profession and finally, a look into her experience being told that as the only teacher of color in her Michigan charter public school that, “the community is not ready for your voice.”

Mika shares an impassioned account of how a speech she was asked to give in the capacity of a writer, not as a teacher, to the entire middle school rocked her world. During her speech, which was based on how to write horror, Mika talked about writing from experience and shared her struggles as a woman and domestic violence survivor. In her speech she said, “I will share with you my darkness so you feel safe to share your darkness with me, such that we can vanquish the darkness together.”

Soon after, students did begin sharing their darkness, her speech, Mika says, did what she intended. However, along with students approaching her about concerns they had in their lives, a parent also approached the school about a concern they had as well. A concern that ultimately silenced Mika and, what she feels, invalidated the lesson she always held true to her students: that their voice matters!

To learn more, listen as Mika recounts her experiences and emotionally shares a deep and loving message to her students, whom she never had the chance to say goodbye to after ultimately being let go from Michigan’s Renaissance Public School Academy, where she was the only teacher of color.

Click here to read a guest blog Mika shares about her take on, “Education is a Feminist Issue.”