LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Julie Arasato

Position: Math Teacher
School: Waiakea High School
School District: Hawaii Public Schools
City, State: Hilo, HI

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Julie Arasato was nominated by multiple students. The following profile contains text from each nomination.

Mrs. Arasato is no ordinary math teacher. For the past 17 years, she has demonstrated to her students what it means to persevere in the face of tough challenges.

Mrs. Arasato’s honors and AP classes move at a quicker pace than the average high school course, and the grades are stricter, with tests making up 3/4 of students’ overall grade. However, she makes sure students don’t tie their self-worth to the letter grades they receive. Her main goal is for students to understand the concepts being taught and use them on their own. As the poster on her whiteboard exclaims, "Don't just memorize, ANALYZE!"

Every class period, she puts her heart into teaching her students. She prepares an incredibly organized lesson plan each year, yet she’s able to accommodate each class with a healthy amount of flexibility. She provides comprehensive note outlines and continually improves her methods of instruction in order to do the best she can for her students. Her classroom is always a positive learning environment that accommodates every single student. The efficacy of her teaching is evident in the strong performance of her students on the AP Calculus exam year after year.

“I sought a teacher who would be able to manage my excitement for the class with the lull that overtook many of my other classmates,” said a student. “Would she be able to achieve this delicate balance between a fast-paced, motivated learner and the discouraged, confused feelings of others in the class? The first day I sat down in her classroom, I was amazed. She was genuinely excited to teach us and assured us she was confident in our entire class’ abilities. After a semester of teaching, I can confirm she still holds this same fire within as she explains the complex concepts of applied derivatives and integrals to us. She met my subconscious standard that had been set by prior students and many teachers at our school”

Mrs. Arasato demonstrates very high ethical standards without fault. She teaches her students about what it means to be a good person, and she does so with an elegance that blends these ethical lessons seamlessly into the academic content. She also goes the extra mile to make every class engaging and lively for students, which is very important for effectively getting through to teenagers. When students seem tired in her class, she’ll energize them with some candy or change the lesson plan to make that day’s notes less strenuous.

These efforts alone distinguish her as an impactful teacher, but what truly makes her so great is the sacrifices she makes. Every break, Mrs. Arasato keeps her door open for students seeking extra help. She can almost always be found eating her lunch while working on math problems with students. She’ll ask how the homework is helping or hurting their understanding of the material, or how the workload is in comparison to the busy schedules her students have. If students open up to her about how they’ve struggled to complete a set due to low confidence in their answers, she’ll change the problem numbers to those in the answer key so they can check their work after each problem. Even when the stress of managing all her classes builds up, she never hesitates to dedicate her free moments to her students. 

It’s not just her own students who come to her for help, however. She has become a provider to many students who are simply searching for advice or a trusted adult to talk to. The way students are drawn to her classroom speaks volumes for her caring nature.

“In my senior year of High School, I hit a massive barrier that resulted in the downfall of my grades,” said a student. “I received my first C on my report card and did not know how to react.  Terrified, sad and beaten, Mrs. Arasato assured me that this letter I received did not mean that I lacked ability in this subject...She taught me that a simple letter should not deteriorate your self-worth.”

Outside of her classroom, Mrs. Arasato is active within the school as one of the health academy advisors, volunteering to lead students and other adults in school activities within the health academy. This school year, she was chosen as the Commencement advisor—a huge responsibility and task that she did not think she could carry. However, she is devoted to her role and is doing an amazing job making sure each portion of this huge ceremony is being taken care of.

“Mrs. Arasato touches the lives of her students in subtle, yet incredibly powerful ways,” said a student. “She has been a great inspiration and support to myself and many others. She deserves to be commended for her invaluable contributions to the lives of the students in her community.”