At the 2016-2017 Master of Arts in Teaching Recognition Ceremony, Akari Sunaga was awarded a Mary Roosevelt Honor Scholarship in Teaching and Learning for excellence in academics, demonstrated leadership skills, and dedication to improving the lives and educational opportunities of students. Akari is pursuing her MAT with a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential. Below, she shares her thoughts about her educational journey and her chosen career.
I was born in the city of Torrance, California in 1993. I live in a family of four, and a cat! As a child, I loved playing pretend with my older sister, my friends, anyone I could round up. My dream was to become a spy detective agent, farmer, magician, and I had no idea teaching would become something I wanted to do! Now I’m entering my fifth year playing taiko (Japanese drumming) which is my passion, and through this cultural instrument, I learned I love teaching others! Taiko is my connection to my culture and helped me appreciate a wonderful community of musicians, performers, and people from around the globe. I also love to draw, take photos, anything creative and arts-related. I speak, read, and write fluent Japanese, and translate for my parents mainly.
Education is a topic that didn’t light fire in me, until with the help of a few teachers I realized how many issues I personally associate with were related to education. From my own experience as a student, I realized how important teachers were in my life in shaping my values and outlook on life, what I became passionate about, and why it matters to be passionate about anything. I hope to become a teacher who can help my students find and practice what they love to do, whether it is to learn about the ecosystem, to help others and the world, running the 10K, reading as many books as possible, or playing a trumpet. I wanted to place myself where I can interact with kids in the most engaging and productive manner, at a school.
UCI was a good candidate for me initially because I had heard good things about it from a friend who had completed the teacher education program and is now a teacher. Also, I knew the campus from being an undergraduate here and engaging in a variety of activities - administrative intern, Ondas intern, Student Life and Leadership intern, campus-wide honors program, Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, and the UCI Jodaiko Japanese drumming ensemble. I liked the focus of the MAT program on making teacher leaders, not just graduate students.
Ultimately I want to become the teacher who empowers my students to be proud of their identity, to have compassion towards others, and also be passionate about and work hard doing what they love. I also don’t want to stop learning about the world so I plan to use my time as a teacher to learn from my students as well. I also plan to become really good at my side passion, taiko drumming!
Mary Roosevelt and Akari Sunaga