The end of a chapter, Tsuruda leaves literature legacy at MHS


By Harlan Rose
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(Photo courtesy of Lisa-Anne Tsuruda) For most of her years at MHS, Tsuruda taught Advanced Placement (AP) English Literature and Composition and, in 2015, she achieved a 100 percent pass rate on the course's AP exam.
(Photo courtesy of Lisa-Anne Tsuruda) For most of her years at MHS, Tsuruda taught Advanced Placement (AP) English Literature and Composition and, in 2015, she achieved a 100 percent pass rate on the course’s AP exam.

Concluding a chapter in her career, English teacher Lisa-Anne Tsuruda is ending her 11-year tenure at MHS. Tsuruda, who came to Mililani in 2005, will begin teaching seventh and eighth grade at Iolani School in the fall. Much beloved by students and faculty alike, she leaves a legacy of passionately teaching literature and positively affecting those she teaches and works with.

“I’ve never seen a teacher with more energy and more passion for her job. Everything about her exudes love for teaching and for kids, and I think that’s why she has the success she has,” said English teacher Steven Schick, who has worked with Tsuruda since she began teaching at Waianae High School in 1993. “She’s constantly learning, always reading, always trying to figure out how to be a better teacher. And then (she’s) 100 percent there for her kids in terms of what they demand.”

Tsuruda spent many of her years at MHS teaching British Literature and Advanced Placement (AP) English Literature and Composition. Tsuruda, whom her students affectionately call “Aunty Lisa,” has a teaching style that is not easily forgotten by those who had her and worked with her. “I would describe (her style) as being one of the most animated, enthusiastic, bouncing off the walls styles I have ever seen,” Schick said. Senior Naomi Vargas added, “I love her class. I think it was that she made a difficult class fun and while being in that class it really opened up accepting myself because the way she teaches it just makes you open to being who you are.”

While at MHS, Tsuruda served as the English department head and as the AP coordinator for the 2015-2016 school year. In 2009, she was also awarded the Milken Educator Award. As a part of the award, she was granted $25,000; $10,000 of which she dedicates to granting $500 scholarships to students hoping to enter the field of education. Despite these accolades, Tsuruda believes her greatest success stems from that of her students. “I feel successful in the sense that my students, when I look at them at the end of the day, regardless of their grades, is that each and every one of them have grown in their understanding of literature, their comprehension of literature, talking about literature, and being confident in that, and also just developing that love of literature,” said Tsuruda.

For the past two years, Tsuruda has co-taught British Literature with English teacher Sean Wagner and Educational Assistant Lynn Benavente and has even assisted with teaching special education students. This experience has helped Tsuruda expand her knowledge as an educator. “It has taught me to be humble, for me to be more compassionate, for me to be more open that there are different types of learners and that everyone doesn’t learn the same way and that there are different ways to learn and that people have different goals and that’s okay,” explained Tsuruda.

Those who have worked closely with Tsuruda or have had her as a teacher will miss her passion and energy for her job. “She’s like my little sister, you know. We’ve been together for 23 years. I’ll miss everything about her. But I guess what I’ll miss most is that we’ve always done this job together. As long as she’s been a teacher, we’ve done this job,” expressed Schick. Vargas added, “I’m just going to miss having a teacher that loves doing what she does and it’s not like it’s a class where you don’t learn anything either, she actually tries to get what we need to learn done but it’s still very fun and amazing.”

Furthermore, Tsuruda will miss the sense of community felt at MHS, and she hopes to carry that philosophy and the lessons she has learned over the past 11 years to Iolani. “This place is truly one family, one place, we are Trojan Nation and I will never let go of myself being a part of the Trojan Nation. It doesn’t matter where I am that I will always love this place, and that I will always love this school,” said Tsuruda. “What my hope is that I’m going to take who I am and the philosophy and the lessons I’ve learned here and I’m taking them to a new place and I’m forming something that’s new, and I hope that that place will echo some of the things that make this place a special place.”

While Tsuruda may be leaving MHS, her spirit and drive for teaching will continue to inspire those that worked with her and passed through her classes, and she hopes to accomplish the same goal at Iolani School.