Meet Aya Hamanaka, the New ELL Teacher

Zoey Moore, Staff Writer

Angel Perez researches content for his debate topic.

Aya Hamanaka, the new English Language Learners (ELLs) teacher, grew up in a bilingual, bicultural environment. “Similar to many ELLs, I grew up in a bilingual, bicultural environment,” Hamanaka said, “so when I decided that I wanted to pursue education, I was simply drawn to getting my ELL endorsement as well.” She graduated from the University of Iowa, in hopes that she could be someone that could “support and encourage ELLs.” She now can teach ELLs from K-12, and is also licensed to teach Japanese 5-12. She finished student teaching just last December, so this will be her first year teaching.

So when I decided that I wanted to pursue education, I was simply drawn to getting my ELL endorsement as well.

— Hamanaka

Engi Made, Denia Simina and Angel Perez work with a student teacher, Taylor Wedemeyer.

Hamanaka’s family consists of her two parents, who are from Japan, and her older sister, Misa Hamanaka. “My parents still live in southwestern Iowa, so the proximity from Atlantic to their house made me choose this district,” Hamanaka said. Since her parents have lived in America for a while now, they can speak English quite well. She, on the other hand, learned English through being in school and interacting with the community. She and her sister have lived in America their entire lives, because they were born here after her parents moved to America in search of work. Misa is a system analyst for a community college, however, in the past, she was a teacher like Hamanaka, a high school math teacher. As for the rest of Hamanaka’s relatives, they live in Japan. “My relatives still live in Japan,” Hamanaka said. “My family goes back occasionally to visit them.”

Japan is not the only place she has traveled to though. In terms of international travel, she has gone to Canada and Brazil. In the United States, she has gone to Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah. Although she hasn’t traveled to all of the states, visiting all of them is on her bucket list. Besides traveling, Hamanaka also loves to read, take walks, and crotchet. “I can spend the entire day reading or crocheting,” Hamanaka said, “which is why it’s good that I also like to take walks.”

Maddie Engkichy works during class time. (Katie Birge)

Feel free to stop by Hamanaka’s room #214 for a chat. According to Hamanaka, she’s someone who’s easy to talk to. “I consider myself someone who is easy to talk to,” Hamanaka said, “so if you ever want to drop by the room to chat about books, crocheting, Paddington, Paddington 2, or something else, I would be down for a quick chat.”