TEACHERS | Ivalu Anderson & Tamara Araya
By Kathleen Mest
Ivalu Anderson and Tamara Araya, sisters and teachers at Sato Academy in Long Beach, come from a family of teachers - eleven of them spanning just two generations. And most are teachers right here in Long Beach! Ivalu, a social sciences and economics teacher at Sato, and Tamara, a physics and biomedical science teacher at Sato, as well as a lecturer in the Science Education department at CSULB, have combined over 40 years of teaching experience.
Inspiration Comes in Many Forms
Ivalu knew in the second grade that she wanted to be a teacher, “I wanted to be like Ms. Sawyer.” She continues, “We got a new student half-way through the year who was incredibly shy. Ms. Sawyer asked me to help the new student with the transition. One day, my new friend accidentally brought her teddy bear to school! It was in her arms as she got out of the car. She was petrified that the kids were going to make fun of her. We ran to find Ms. Sawyer, who promised to keep teddy and told the class that it belonged to her.” Ivalu’s lasting memories of second grade are how Ms. Sawyer provided compassion and a sense of belonging to her students.
In 7th grade, Ivalu’s history teacher, Ms. Lipson, opened her mind and heart to history. When Ivalu’s father died, she spent three weeks in Chile to be with his loved ones and her family. Of course, Ivalu had school work to make-up. Ms. Lipson created a make-up assignment specifically for her - to research the history of Chile and why her father immigrated to the United States. Because of this personalized project, Ivalu was hooked on history.
Both of these teachers went outside of the traditional academic bubble and delved into the social emotional learning that has become prevalent in recent years. These teachers demonstrated empathy and provided their students with feelings of safety and inclusivity while providing lessons that had an impact.
To help their family financially, Tamara began tutoring middle school and high school students while she was a student at Poly High. “School wasn’t easy for me and I created my own strategies to learn. I found out that it brought me joy to share my knowledge and to help students become successful. I love finding methodologies and different ways to help the students understand.”
She always found science and biology fascinating. Her early interest in teaching and science led to a college scholarship in biology with intent to teach.
What Makes Teaching Meaningful for You?
“I thrive from the interaction with students,” says Tamara. ”I see their growth at school and then see them successful and contributing in the ‘real world’. It’s empowering to share my knowledge and feel like I impacted and hopefully, improved our society.”
“When you complete a lesson, and the students ‘get it’, there is a connection… that “aha” moment is ‘psychic income’. It’s the good feeling you get when you’re doing good,” Ivalu explains. “You're teaching the students how to think and be thoughtful.”
“And when the kids tell you that they miss you or that they enjoyed your class,” Ivalu says with a smile, “that feeling is also psychic income.” It’s satisfaction for the soul.
“Covid (online teaching) was especially hard,” Ivalu says, “because interactions were hard. It’s the connections with the students that fill up your emotional bank and we were teaching black squares on Zoom. We were drained.”
“But we can’t let the students down,” adds Tamara. “You keep bringing the best you can.”
There’s Something About Long Beach
Both Ivalu and Tamara live and work in Long Beach.
Tamara shares, “Long Beach has educated my kids since Kindergarten. Great teachers taught me and now teach them.”
Ivalu agrees, “There are many generational teachers here in Long Beach. We grew up in Long Beach, we were taught by great teachers in Long Beach, our kids attend Long Beach schools. There is a lot at stake.”
The Future of Teaching
Due to Covid-19, things changed rapidly in education. People in all professions did things that we didn’t know were possible. I asked them what they thought the future of teaching looks like.
Ivalu saw how recent events have made an impact that will last. She comments, “I think technically, things advanced quickly and technology will continue to be incorporated in as many ways possible into our classrooms. Personally, I have learned to be more compassionate about students' home situations. I’ve made most of my assignments possible to complete in class but also at home. I allow students to have bad days or brain breaks in class if it looks like they need it. Overall, it’s more important they feel welcome in class and the content will come later. This is not new but mental health is now more important to me than the ‘work’ and the tests.”
“Covid taught us to appreciate human interactions and be compassionate for the life that exists outside the classroom,” adds Tamara. “I think as teachers and students, we are learning how fortunate we are to be able to come to class and interact with others and how those interactions do impact student learning. It’s also becoming more evident that a hands-on approach to learning science is critical and is a best practice now and in the future.”
Advice for the Next
Generation of Teachers
Ivalu believes that “true passion for teaching comes from within you. Become a college aide or tutor before entering the teacher certification process. Can you break down information for students? Do you have the ‘heart’ to care for your students?”
Tamara points out that “teaching can be stressful, but enjoy it. Don’t fight it. And appreciate the outcome.” The juice is worth the squeeze.
Do you want to become a teacher? The Long Beach Unified School District is the largest employer in Long Beach, while California State University, Long Beach, is the fourth largest, and Long Beach City College is the sixth largest.
Check out these websites to get more information:
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