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Excellence in Teaching

Deanna Matsumoto

Deanna has always had a desire to serve her community and those in need. In 1981, she became the Director of Asian Community Services in New Haven, Connecticut. In this position, she coordinated English language tutoring, social services, and extracurricular activities for recent Southeast Asian refugees and immigrants. With assistance from State-appointed advisors, Deanna developed teaching curriculum and fundraised through grant writing. She began her distinguished college career by attending Yale University where she received her Bachelor of Arts in East Asian Studies in 1984. Having developed a passion for helping those new to the United States, Deanna became an Adult Literacy Facilitator at the International Institute of Rhode Island where she taught survival English language skills to recent Cambodian, Hmong, and Vietnamese refugees and immigrants for two years. Her next position brought her to Huazhong Normal University in The People’s Republic of China where she spent two years teaching English language courses including American literature, writing, and reading comprehension to undergraduates and prospective visiting scholars to the United States. Deanna then returned to the United States and received her Master of Arts in Architecture and Urban Planning from UCLA in 1991. In addition, she earned her Designated Subjects Adult Education Credential from the University of San Diego with special authorizations in ESL, Chinese, ABE, ASE, Fine Arts, Social Sciences, and Decorative Arts. Since then, Deanna has worked with older adults teaching art and music classes to seniors at the Pico Rivera Senior Center, TELACU Del Rio, El Rancho Healthcare Center, Alta Med, and Montebello Care Center. In addition, she has spent the past seven years working at Montebello Community Adult School teaching ESL levels 4, 5, and 6 as well as CAHSEE Math and English courses.

Over the last 30 years, Deanna has dedicated herself to helping people of the community who need it the most. Her work with refugees, immigrants, older adults, and adults looking for a second chance is an inspiration. The care and commitment she brings is evident in every class she teaches. Our Director of Adult Education, Kathy Brendzal, states, “Deanna personifies that exceptional educator whom students revere as the inspirational teacher that changed their lives and helped them reach their dreams.” Montebello Community Adult School is truly fortunate to have Deanna as a member of its team.

Deanna realizes that students learn in different ways. She uses her expertise in music, art, and language to meet the students at their level and connects with them in a way that will enrich their learning experience. She incorporates acting, cooking, art, dance, and music into her teaching to engage the various senses of the students for maximum learning. She regularly attends conferences, workshops, and other professional development opportunities to search for new strategies to reach the students. 
In Deanna’s ESL classes, she incorporates popular books and movies into lesson plans so students are engaged in not only the content, but the delivery of speech through the dialogue. She works with other students to create costumes and props to practice English through the reenactment of popular scenes.

Deanna connects with the students on an individual basis to assess and address their needs. While teaching her CAHSEE Math Preparation classes, she realized that many students had not had the opportunity to learn fractions and percentages. Seeing that the topic was a great challenge for them, she used simple supplies such as graph paper and colored pencils to draw and visualize the number, fraction, percentage, and eventually, the word problem they needed to answer. While teaching graphing, statistics, geometry, or algebra, she creates real-life scenarios and problems for learning the skills. Many students have said that through Deanna’s teaching methods, what once seemed impossible was now clear. Some of Deanna’s greatest moments are seeing the joy and relief in her students’ eyes when they finally understand a concept that had been an obstacle most of their lives.

In addition to CAHSEE Math, Deanna is also creating curriculum for her CAHSEE English Preparation class. She is incorporating technology as another resource for students to reach their goals. Deanna has designed a hybrid class combining teacher-based lectures with an online curriculum. 

The students in Deanna’s classes talk about how much she listens to their concerns and creates ways to assist in their achievement and the achievement of their families. Many of her students are parents. Knowing that a great deal of these students had not gone to college and how complicated the college application process can be, Deanna uses her experience as a Yale alumni interviewer and parent of children who have applied to universities to help them. She explains the general admissions process, the essay writing component, the interview process, and the importance of local school visits for prospective students. She gives them the confidence they need to guide their children to their next pathway in education.

In Deanna’s ESL class, she overheard students talking about driving without licenses. After creating a classroom discussion and survey, she realized that many of her students were not only driving without licenses, but knew very little about the traffic rules and regulations. She immediately created a curriculum based on drivers’ education and traffic laws. 

Noting that certain illnesses, such as diabetes, were prevalent among her students and their family members, Deanna decided to take action. She organized over 50 students and staff to participate in the City of Commerce’s 5K Turkey Trot in November of 2012. The turnout was excellent, and Montebello Community Adult School garnered 13 medals. She will organize this year’s Turkey Trot team as well. Some students were so enthusiastic about running representing the adult school that they trained to run in the 2014 Los Angeles Marathon and would like to also participate in the 2015 Los Angeles Marathon.

Deanna is a role model to other teachers. Her dedication and creativity are a source of inspiration to those around her. Teachers often seek her out for advice or input, and even with her busy schedule and commitments, she is always willing to assist and collaborate with her fellow instructors. Deanna has transitioned into several leadership positions including WASC, legislative advocacy, and our consortium, Los Angeles Regional Adult Education Consortium (LARAEC).

Deanna is currently part of the WASC Self-Study Team for 2014-5. Her contribution is invaluable. She attends all Focus Groups to share her curriculum, instruction, and assessment methods. 

As a member of the MCAS Legislative Team, she meets with local legislators to inform them of the incredible service that Adult Education provides to the community. She advocates for her students by showing the ripple effect that an education has not only on the student, but the children, families, schools, and communities of that student. In the current climate of adult education, Deanna’s efforts on the legislative front are immense.

In the LARAEC Consortium of which Montebello Unified School District is a member, Deanna currently serves as a Subject Matter Expert. She attends planning meetings to give her expertise and insight on student needs, gaps in curriculum, and methods to address those gaps. The outcome of these planning meetings could change the way Adult Education is delivered in the future.
Even though Deanna has many roles and leadership positions at MCAS, her first priority is her students. She selflessly volunteers her personal time to attend meetings and complete projects so as not to affect her students by missing class time.

Deanna has been a CCAE member for 7 years. She has served and continues to serve on the Chapter Scholarship Reviewing Committee for the past three years. Currently Deanna holds both the position of the Montebello Chapter’s secretary and co-chair of the Chapter Awards Committee. Deanna is a dedicated and valued leader in CCAE. She strongly supports all CCAE events, conferences, activities, and fundraisers. She is the first one to volunteer at any CCAE meeting, event, or workshop. Deanna receives great inspiration from attending CCAE conferences, bringing the creativity and innovation acquired from workshops to her classroom. As a CCAE member and teacher, she works tirelessly to champion Adult Education by visiting legislators in Southern California and advocating for the needs of her students.

For the past two years, Deanna has advised adult education students who would like to represent Montebello Community Adult School at CCAE’s Legislation Day. She coaches students in interview strategies, and assists students in writing their application essays. Students have commented that Deanna’s assistance with their applications provides them with a sense of confidence and self-assuredness to pursue other scholarships and awards. For those selected students, the experience representing adult education at Legislation Day proved to be life-changing. 

Deanna received a Letter of Commendation for Excellence in Writing from Yale College. She uses her ability to assist her students in improving their writing skills. She received the Edward McClure Award from the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning and the Society for American City and Regional Planning History Research Prize for research on America’s concentration camps during World War II. Ironically, Deanna learned that though many civil rights were stripped from the imprisoned Japanese Americans, adult education flourished in the camps. The fact that adult educators supported them is not lost on Deanna: adult education has historically served those most in need, and in extraordinary conditions.

Deanna is a devoted wife and mother. As a Board and committee member of PTA for many years, she received an Honorary Service Award. She knows the importance of being involved in her children’s education. She encourages her students to participate and guide their children to do well in school and think about their futures. 

In 2006, Deanna was given the Credit Union of Southern California’s Student Impact Grant which was used to purchase musical instruments for students residing in skilled nursing facilities. This grant was awarded to selected instructors to enhance their class environments by using creative and innovative techniques and materials.

Deanna greatly deserves recognition as a dedicated and creative Adult school teacher. Her varied background enriches students’ learning experiences. Her education and career path have been instrumental in creating the incredible teacher she is today. She brings real-life examples and various methodologies to the classroom to touch as many students as possible. Her strong commitment and advocacy of the ideals of Adult Education help to insure its survival. The excellence she brings to everything she does has brought her many accolades, but it is her humble nature and commitment to education that inspires her students to continue to reach their goals.