Adding up to teacher of the year

Los Altos High School math instructor wins teaching accolades from Santa Clara County

Betty Yamasaki, a math teacher at Los Altos High School, recently received the 2017 Santa Clara County Teachers of the Year award for the Mountain View-Los Altos High School District. Yamasaki, the department chair, led the school through the transition to the Common Core curriculum and pushed for changes in Algebra II to ensure that more students complete the course by graduation.

Yamasaki, who has been teaching at Los Altos High School for about 22 years, has taught math from pre-algebra all the way up to calculus.

Yamasaki said the district office gave the math department at Los Altos High School a challenge to get every student through Algebra II -- an important hurdle in applying for college universities in California. To accomplish that, Yamasaki said she helped push for the creation of Algebra II enhanced classes, which provide a period of extra help during the school day. It's now in its third year.

"That's been working," she said.

She also helped students find tutors to help students at the tutor center.

Yamasaki's concern for students also extends to the high-performing students, who now have the option of taking a multivariable calculus class, she said.

In addition to teaching her other classes, Yamasaki co-teaches the math basics classes for special education students. She said that the class is in its second year. "Our goal for that class is to prepare them for placement tests at junior colleges and give them life skills," she said.

During the switch to Common Core, Yamasaki was the coordinator and department chair of the math department. It took about two years to fully transition the curriculum to Common Core at Los Altos High School, she said.

Yamasaki said her focus isn't just on math. She also noticed that "there are a lot of things going on in the world that the kids are confused about ... I started to put humor in my daily lessons. Every day for 30 seconds I give them my thought for the day."

She plans on including more humor alongside her math lessons this school year to make students more engaged.

She credits the "fantastic people" as the reason she grew to love Los Altos High School.

"I think it starts with (Principal) Wynne Satterwhite. Her belief is the kids come first, their health, well-being and education," she said, "It's never the same thing each year and that's what makes it fun."

The award ceremony will be held at Campbell Heritage Theater, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. on Sept. 14, celebrating Teacher of the Year winners in Santa Clara County.


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