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Panther Profiles

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"We’re all a part of this community"


Ms. Amy Haruyama - First Grade Teacher

Deeply devoted to public education and Oakland families, Sankofa United first grade teacher Amy Haruyama will celebrate her 30th anniversary of teaching in OUSD next year. Ms. Haruyama, who comes from a long line of educators, knew she wanted to be a teacher ever since she can remember. Her grandparents, Chozo and Nobu Haruyama, ran a kindergarten school in Japan, and she recalls lining up her stuffies and doll “students” from a young age. For Ms. Haruyama, it’s been a calling. She especially loves working with first graders: “their willingness to try anything, witnessing their growth, it’s amazing. They’re still so honest and pure.”

Ms. Haruyama joined Sankofa United from Kaiser Elementary following the merger of the two schools. She values Sankofa’s strong sense of community: “the families show a strong commitment to help each other and look out for one another – it’s a unique place.” Ms. Haruyama’s classroom is warm and calming – much like Ms. Haruyama herself. The walls are covered in children’s artwork, colorful quilts, and Black Lives Matter messages. Red apples for students sit in a bowl on her desk. She beams when she shares the old photos that line her cabinets – one of each of the classes she has taught over the years.

Even after three decades of teaching, Ms. Haruyama has maintained the zest of a new teacher – she’s remarkably energetic, playful, and even goofy at times - singing and dancing with the children and encouraging their self-expression. At the same time, she emphasizes structure and predictability. “She sets expectations and is consistent,” said one parent, “and I think that’s why her classroom feels welcoming and fair.” A member of a Buddhist temple, Ms. Haruyama holds a strong belief in the interconnectedness of all people. “We’re all a part of this community, and our actions impact everyone. We all have the ability to change and become better people.” She hopes her students will internalize this message. And it appears many have: according to one parent, Ms. Haruyama’s superpower is “the ability to motivate students to do their best and be their best selves.”

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