When Kryssa Isobe was in elementary school, her mom would stay up late to teach her long division and would assign extra “homework” when she wasn’t performing as expected. And the family’s expectations were high.
“Without my family’s strong roots in Japanese culture, my foundation in education may not have been as rigorous,” she says.
An elementary education major, Kryssa is keenly aware of the impact of culture and the value of diverse perspectives in the classroom. A resident of Waipahu, Hawaii, she grew up in the only state that has never had a white majority. She sees that not only as an advantage in doing a good job, but landing one. “Utilizing what I know about other cultures would give me an edge in looking for a job, especially in diverse communities.”
Kryssa is a 2011-12 ambassador for the WSU College of Education’s Future Teachers & Leaders of Color (FTLOC) program in Pullman. The role comes with a scholarship and a chance to help other students. Her fellow ambassador is Alexandra Colvin, a secondary education major from Kennewick who plans to teach math.
Alexandra was drawn to education because she recognizes the power that a teacher wields to influence lives — for better or worse.
“The most detrimental and inspiring people in my life have been educators,” Alexandra says. She plans to fall in the “inspiring” category, which means knowing how to relate to students with different perspectives than her own. “Teachers alienate their students if they can’t understand them.”
Kryssa puts it this way: Educators need to understand the culture of students for the same reason that comedians need to understand the background of their audiences. Without cultural understanding, learning — like jokes — falls flat.
FTLOC was established in response to the under-representation of ethnic minorities in education. Its ambassadors, working with the College of Education’s student services office, coordinate some very pragmatic events, such as mock interviews for students who are applying for WSU’s teacher education program, which involves an admission interview. The FTLOC also provides networking and socializing opportunities. Alexandra and Kryssa are getting ready for what has become a signature program event, a Thanksgiving-style dinner at which students mingle with faculty. This year’s feast will be held November 15; guest speaker will be Miguel Villarreal (Ed.D. ’11), superintendent of schools in Othello.