Yuuko Arikawa’s intuitive talent as a reading coach, her keen ability to mentor language arts teachers, and her overall outstanding leadership abilities helped guide Kaala Elementary School out of restructuring into good standing under No Child Left Behind.
Arikawa has been a driving force behind systemic changes at Kaala Elementary School. Her leadership roles, however, have never gotten in the way of making time for her students, who remain the focus of her priorities. When Arikawa walks into a classroom, children instantly recognize her as the “reading teacher,” rushing to greet her with hugs and to show off their language arts work.
Believing that all students are a priority, Arikawa goes out of her way to bridge the home-school connection, personally taking books to families at their homes, tutoring students herself to provide supplemental educational services and helping students who are approaching proficiency on the Hawaii State Assessment prepare for the test.
As a teacher leader and peer mentor, Arikawa has demonstrated her ability to work with adult learners as well. When Kaala Elementary introduced the new Reading Street curriculum, Arikawa developed a pacing guide to help teachers understand the framework. She also taught them how to analyze student learning data in order to understand their students’ strengths and weaknesses and how to identify when instructional intervention is needed. Last year, when furlough days shortened the school year, Arikawa adjusted the curriculum to make sure all major areas were addressed under the revised schedule.
A dedicated lifelong learner herself, Arikawa models the behavior she expects in other teachers — keeping up with current research, sharing applicable best practices with her fellow teachers, and setting the tone for professional development at the school. She has also been willing to share what she has learned with other schools in the district to help them develop their own school-level leaders.
Kaala Elementary School Principal Ted Fisher described Arikawa as a master teacher whose dedication to excellence for students and teachers is a breath of fresh air. “Mrs. Arikawa is that bright light for all the students at Kaala Elementary School. Her priority is to do what is best for all students… so they will all be successful,” he said.
From school year 2005-2006 to school year 2008-2009, Arikawa’s first four years as a reading coach, Kaala Elementary School’s reading scores rose 19 percentage points. Arikawa’s efforts played a major role in Kaala Elementary’s transformation from a once-struggling school to now one of six elementary schools in the country to have a National Honor Society.
“Her greatest strengths are her interpersonal skills and genuine care for people, especially advocating high expectations and achievement of all students. Yuuko is a team player who values the collegial aspect of working together,” said Patricia Ann Park, Leilehua/Mililani/Waialua Complex Area Superintendent.
Park also noted that Arikawa recognizes that changing the learning environment in the classroom requires a systemic approach to addressing the needs of adult learners at the state, district, and school levels. “She truly is a teacher’s teacher,” said Park.
Arikawa joined the faculty at Kaala Elementary School in July 2000 and taught first and second grade until becoming the school’s reading coach in July 2005.
Arikawa received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
Hawaii has been part of the Milken Educator Awards since 1990-91. Including this 21st year, 69 Hawaii educators have received awards totaling $1,725,000.
The recipients have demonstrated exemplary instructional practices, outstanding accomplishments, and long-range potential to contribute to the profession. They are inspirational leaders who are able to motivate students, colleagues, and the community.
The Milken Educator Award strives to strengthen the education profession by celebrating and rewarding outstanding educators for their achievements, expand their opportunities for professional growth, and unite them in a nationwide network aimed at reforming education through action.
In addition to the unrestricted $25,000 cash award, Arikawa will be honored at the Milken National Education Conference and awards ceremony to be held next spring in Los Angeles, California.
Conceived in 1985, the Milken Educator Awards were first presented in 1987. Since its inception, the program has awarded more than $62 million to honor more than 2,500 educators, including those who will be named during the 2010-2011 school year. For more on the awards, the National Education Conference, or other Milken Family Foundation programs, call (310) 570-4774, or go to http://www.mff.org.