Beloved teacher honored


POSTED: Wednesday, March 04, 2009

When junior William Hall was failing English in January, he turned to Asa Yamashita for help.

“;She helped me bring up my grade for English class,”; he said. “;She's really cool. She helped me understand my work better.”;

Hall was one of hundreds of students, parents, teachers, staff and alumni of Waianae High School who jammed the school cafetorium, along with other colleagues, friends and family of the beloved educator, at a candlelight vigil last night.

Yamashita, who headed the school's English Department, is credited with raising the school's literacy scores to 55 percent from 12 percent of students at or above grade level four years ago. That was due to a literacy program she promoted, said fellow teacher Phillip Deporto, who collected memory cards and donations for a scholarship fund that will go to a graduating senior who advances through the literacy program she began.

“;She's a very inspirational lady,”; he said. “;She gave her students that feeling that you can succeed.”;

The 43-year-old wife and mother of two young girls was fatally stabbed Friday at the Ewa Town Center in an apparently random and unprovoked attack.

Tittleman Fauatea, 25, of Ewa Beach has been charged with her murder and remains in custody.

Kat Muranaka, a friend and colleague of Yamashita's, said Yamashita left Waianae High in 1990 for Kamehameha Schools and returned seven years later to the place “;where she felt she could make the most difference.”;

Parent Noreen Pine said Yamashita “;got the faculty revved up, and students revved up in reading,”; helping all four of her children who attended the school. She said her youngest daughter, a 2008 graduate, became an avid reader and is now a journalism major at Creighton University in Nebraska.

Even teachers say Yamashita helped them learn.

Daniel Noia, an advanced placement English teacher, said he “;wouldn't be the teacher I am without her.”; Noia, who is from Connecticut, said Yamashita also helped him in “;learning how to work with the kids here,”; as well as the staff.

“;She's a good part of everything here.”;

Janice Uemori, a friend and Waianae High's activities coordinator, said Yamashita “;had a passion for kids.”; She was just as enthusiastic with her own kids, role-playing Disney characters with her girls at home, as well as inspiring students to read.

“;Not a single person she'd met ever disliked her,”; she said, adding that people will always remember her big smile.