Alumni Spotlight: Lisa Tsubouchi ’06

This past August Lisa Tsubouchi ’06 became one of four alumni currently working at Marin Academy as she joined the Crossroads program as Program Coordinator.  We talked to Lisa about being back on campus and living that balance of being a former student and current employee.

Tell us how you ended up back at MA and about your job here.

Photo by Jack Schow '06

Photo by Jack Schow ’06

Since finishing college I have stayed very connected to MA.  In 2010, when MA’s former Japanese teacher Hideko Akashi (now Dean of Students at the Bay School in San Francisco) took maternity leave I covered her class and loved being back on campus.  Since then I moved to Seattle for a bit, but have been back in the Bay Area for the past year or so and have filled in as a substitute occasionally and worked as the Aim High Campus Coordinator.  Last Spring my parents ran into Hideko at the San Francisco Cherry Blossom Festival and she mentioned that she needed to ‘talk to Lisa about a job.’ Knowing that MA no longer offered Japanese, I wasn’t sure what the position was, but it was at MA, so I was automatically interested. The opening was for a position in the Crossroads Program – luckily I impressed everyone enough that I got the job…and voilà, here I am again! In some ways it’s like I never left, but in other ways it is a completely new experience. While a lot of folks think I’m one of the students, I’m also beginning to get questions like ‘What year is your son or daughter?’ But it’s great, I’m so happy here. I’m so thrilled to be working in the Crossroads Program, especially because I got to know a lot of the students this summer during my work with Aim High.  I also am the House Manager for many of MA’s theatre and music shows, substitute teach occasionally, proctor tests, help out with the MA music website, and am the faculty/staff leader of Asian Student Organization – so, I wear a lot of hats here. But really, I couldn’t be happier to be back. I never really wanted to leave anyway!

And what fills your time when you’re not at MA? 

I’ve always continued my dance classes, but recently I’ve been spending a lot of time in the ceramics studio – I love getting my hands in the clay and making a mess (and then sometimes making something beautiful, too!). Ceramics has already taught me a lot about life – you need strength, determination, patience, and self-compassion (among a lot of other things) to be a successful potter, and as I grow up I realize that all of these aspects are essential in personal growth and development as well. Since graduating from college, I’ve also rediscovered my love of jewelry making. It mostly got started because I’d see something I liked in a shop or online and then be slightly disgusted when I looked at the price – I can make this myself! I’d think. So I did! I spend a few days a month completely immersed in beads, metals, wires and make mostly earrings and necklaces for women, but I’ve dappled in men’s bracelets (which I lovingly term ‘manswag’) recently as well. The holidays are right around the corner – check out my Etsy shoppe!

Who from MA made the most significant impact on who you have become as an adult?

Without a doubt Hideko Akashi. I have truly loved all of my teachers and mentors at MA, but Hideko in particular has had an incredibly great impact on me throughout my high school years and beyond. One of the main reasons I even applied to MA was because they offered Japanese, and I knew I wanted to start studying Japanese so I could communicate with my grandmother who doesn’t speak English. Not even two weeks into my Freshman year, I was hooked. I was enthralled by the language, and Hideko’s approach to teaching is second to none. As I progressed through my time at MA I realized the importance of this language in my own life – this is my heritage, my culture. I believe that without Hideko’s passion for teaching, enthusiasm in and out of the classroom, and commitment to creating meaningful relationships with her students that I may have never been able to experience my own culture the way I was able to. I am deeply appreciative for the time I got to spend with her and the relationship we have continued to develop over the years.

Looking back on the classes that you took at MA, which one had the greatest impact on you and why?

I would say Japanese, but that’s too obvious, so I’ll go with a less obvious answer: anatomy with Randi Martin Bakken.  I was hesitant to take the class because I’ve always been so squeamish – I actually couldn’t get through any of the dissections without crying or becoming nauseous! Randi was (and still is) extremely passionate about the use of sun-protection. I was inspired by her warnings that if we didn’t wear sunscreen we could all risk getting skin cancer, so I bought some SPF and to this day don’t leave the house without sunscreen on my face. But more than that, learning about the human body was an invaluable experience – and completely necessary. Since that class I’ve been exponentially more aware of my physical health and what I can do to keep my body in optimal health & harmony.

Describe your perfect day.

There aren’t enough hours in one day to make it completely perfect, but I’ll describe something that gets close enough. The almost-perfect-day is waking up in my sunny room, making chai and drinking it while I read in bed for an hour or so, then going to work at MA and seeing all the people who make me happy, being productive and feeling like I’m making a difference in the world (no matter how small), and then going to a dance class or to the ceramics studio to tap into that creative flow for a bit.

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