Kurose Named OC16 Outstanding Educator

Hope Ierome and Katherine Seed, Reporters

Spectrum OC, previously known as Oceanic Time Warner, is widely known as a company that provides cable television, but it has also been promoting education in the United States since 1988.

Previous OTW Vice President of Programming created the award to recognize others contributing to bettering youth education. Spectrum’s OC16 recognizes Oahu’s public school teachers who have, according to Hawaii Reporter, “gone above and beyond in educating and making a difference in our local high school students’ lives.” This year, English teacher Mary Ann Kurose was recognized as Radford’s pick to be OC16’s Outstanding Educator of the Year.

“I’m humbled and consider myself fortunate that I’m among so many colleagues who are just as deserving,” Kurose said.

Kurose graduated from University of Hawaii at Manoa in 1996 with a bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education with an emphasis in English.

“Since I earned the best grades in my English classes, I decided to be an English teacher,” she said.

Since then, she has taught a wide variety of subjects at Radford for 21 years.

“I’ve taught grade levels 9-12th, I’ve taught RAMP, Honors, and Reading Workshop classes,” she said. “There are moments when I think, what the heck did I get myself into, but in the end I love teaching, and I’m always learning new things, plus I never get bored,” she said.

Growing up in an unstable home in a local housing project, Kurose was determined to use her education as a key for a better future.

“I had a lot of adversities in my life, but I told myself that one day I’ll go to college, earn a degree, marry a man who loves me, and have a better future for me and my family,” she said. “I poured all my energy into school to mask the instability of my life at home. I got excellent grades and went to college.”

Once at the university, however, Kurose said college wasn’t as easy as she thought it would be.

“It took me five years to graduate from college after an abysmal freshman year,” she said.

Then, in her last semester of college, she was involved in an accident that made her worry she would not graduate on time.

“I was involved in a serious car crash and it was difficult to walk. I was worried that I would miss too many days of school which would affect me not graduating,” Kurose said. “Fortunately, I wasn’t out too long and the rest is history.”

Kurose has been teaching since 1996 and enjoys what she does, even though it wasn’t exactly what she envisioned doing.

“I didn’t want to be a teacher because of my fear of public speaking,” Kurose said. “I just wanted to graduate from college, so I looked at majors that would allow me to graduate on time. I was taking Ethnic Studies classes and wanted to make a difference in the community. As an underrepresented minority, I felt I could be a role model and make a difference by teaching.”

In 2003, while Kurose was pregnant with her first daughter, she experienced a traumatizing incident. Two students were overheard threatening her.

“I filed a Temporary Restraining Order against one of them because he would return to my class as a student the following year and the other one ended up graduating. I spent the next year in hell avoiding the student as much as possible,” Kurose said. “Years later, he wrote some things about me online. This incident affected me in a dark way because I allowed these two young men to stereotype how I viewed future students, it made me fearful, and I was ashamed of myself because I lacked the courage to stand up for myself.”

While that situation was traumatic for Kurose, she said, “That incident was a growing experience for me.”

Despite the difficulties that accompany being a teacher, Kurose chooses to focus on the positives.

“It’s knowing that I made a positive impact on my students,” she said when explaining the most rewarding part of teaching. “I want to think that I made a difference in my students’ lives, whether they learned academically, or felt safe in my classroom,” she said.

Kurose is appreciated by many of her students for making her classroom a comfortable place.

To Christine Andres (12), it is one of her favorite traits about her AVID teacher.

“Mrs. Kurose is very motherly to all of her students,” she said. “She’s very motherly to those she cares about.”

Brandon Lane (12), a student in her Web Design class, agreed. Lane said, “Mrs. Kurose is caring and understanding of all students.”

Jaylin Curl (10) who is in Kurose’s English class said that students tend to maintain friendly attitudes due to Kurose’s welcoming classroom environment.

“I think Mrs. Kurose is a good teacher because she’s very respectful to me and my opinions,” Curl said.

Kae’ly Topasna (10), another student in Kurose’s English class, agrees with Curl, and said, “Mrs. Kurose is a great teacher because she’s understanding, caring, and doesn’t pressure me or any other students if the topic is personal to us.”

Although teaching is a time-consuming job, Kurose enjoys the time she spends at home.

“Seriously, I’m a homebody and prefer to just relax at home with my family,” Kurose said. “I enjoy looking up recipes and attempt to prepare meals and bake desserts for my family.”

Her family means the world to her and contributes to her happiness.

“I think it’s safe to say I’m content with my life. I have four beautiful daughters, I’ve married the love of my life and we’ve been together for 22 years, I love what I do for a living and I have a place to call home. My advice to people and students that are struggling to make it in life is to never give up,” Kurose said.