Lisa Ann Tsuruda
Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Secondary Education
“Educating our youth is such important work and our profession needs to be respected and elevated... It always brings a special joy to my heart when a former student decides to become a teacher.”
Institute for Teacher Education - Secondary
- Post-Baccalaureate Certificate, Secondary Education (PBCTE, Secondary)
COEAA Spotlight on Lisa Ann Tsuruda (credit: Lori Kwee)
I’m a born, raised, live, and eventually die Hawaiʻi girl. There is nowhere else in the entire world where I want to be. I’m from Waipahu and live in Kunia on the Leeward side of the island. I caught the city bus each day to attend Sacred Hearts Academy for high school and for part of my college years. I drive each day into town to teach at ‘Iolani School right down the road from UHM.
Road to Becoming an Educator
I have always wanted to be a teacher from the age of five. I would play “school” with my stuffed animals and later other kids in my neighborhood. I loved correcting work and giving gold stars! I was first inspired by my Aunty Marian Lung who was an elementary teacher for many years in the DOE. I was also heavily influenced by my high school teacher Mrs. Margeret-Helen Wood to become a secondary English teacher myself. Many of my favorite novels and approaches to pedagogy come from her.
I earned a BA in English in 1991. Many of my other credits came from the numerous speech department courses I took under the tutelage of Dr. Gary Balfantz. He has been and continues to be a huge supporter of my work as an educator. I was able to teach Freshman Seminar for Beginning Speech and team-taught Speech 230 for education majors as a student there. I earned my Professional Diploma in Secondary Education: English in 1993. I was too close to graduating when the College of Education started their MEd program or I would have definitely applied to be in Cohort 1.
I have been so blessed in the schools I have taught at:
Waipahu High School for my O/P, Student Teaching, and Summer School
Waiʻanae High School (Fall 1993-Spring 2006)
Mililani High School (Fall 2006-Spring 2016)
‘Iolani School (Fall 2016-Present)
I was also fortunate enough to teach a Cohort of UHM College of Education masterʻs students in Secondary Education English Foundational Course in 2016.
At ‘Iolani School, I am an Upper School English teacher. I teach mostly 7th grade students in English 7 and some juniors for a yearlong course, British Literary Experience, which melds together British literature, expository writing, and college prep work. I serve as the Course Head of the English 7 team, an Assistant Coach of our Intermediate Speech Team, the Head Advisor of our Storytellers Club, and the Presentation Coach of our ‘Iobotics (Robotics)Team. My Class Adviser partner and I also just graduated our Class of 2022 this past June.
I am also very proud to have served as an O/P teacher and Coordinating Teacher for past teaching candidates. They have all gone on to be teachers in Hawaiʻi, other states, and even other countries. I also was a new teacher mentor at Mililani High School and am now a new teacher mentor and English 7 Course Head at ‘Iolani School. All of these roles have allowed me to share my teaching manaʻo and continue my legacy.
I am an English and Leadership teacher in their Summer Program and have served as a tutor during the school year as well. I look forward to every opportunity to work with KAʻI students in grades 7 to 12. It allows me to work with DOE students which is so important to me. The KAʻI program serves students from Pre-K to Post Secondary; it has impacted so many of our Pālolo Valley students and their families.
Milken Educator Award Recipient (2009)
I am honored to be the 2009 Milken Educator Award recipient for Hawaiʻi. It is like the Oscars of teaching and you cannot apply for it. I did not know that there was a whole committee working hard in support of my application. My former Mililani High School Principal Dr. John Brummel and former Northside Central Complex Area Superintendent the late Mrs. Patricia Park were instrumental in supporting my nomination. My award notification day in October 2010 was very memorable since it was the day before we had teacher furloughs. It was a reminder that those in the teaching profession are so vital to their communities. Educating our youth is such important work and our profession needs to be respected and elevated. I have committed most of my prize money to 20 Legacy Scholarships for graduating seniors from Mililani High School who go into teaching. This coming May, I am set to award scholarship #14; it’s so rewarding to help someone at the very beginning of their education journey. In terms of my teaching, I am most proud of helping my students believe in their abilities to analyze, write, and speak with confidence and use these skills to reach their highest potential while helping others. It always brings a special joy to my heart when a former student decides to become a teacher.
Three Fun Facts
1. I was in a magic trick with David Copperfield. I was chosen out of the audience when he threw a ping pong ball into the crowd.
2. I had never gone to Las Vegas until my 10th wedding anniversary in 2013.
3. You can listen to a great podcast episode my son Ryan and I did for our ʻIolani School Podcast. We were interviewed by the amazing John Tamanaha. You can hear more about my teaching life and my son’s journey as a school leader and as a student/athlete.
I am so grateful that I attended college at UH Mānoa as both an English/Speech major for my undergrad and then later as an Education major since it immediately connected me with various schools and their administrators. I was able to learn alongside and then network with many of my UHM classmates as we all progressed in our careers in the DOE.