Photo by Bennie Chang
As Lynbrook students walk onto campus, they are greeted by a smile belonging to Assistant Principal Yukari Salazar, new to Lynbrook this year. With dyed purple hair and an office filled with snacks for students, Salazar brings new energy to Lynbrook’s administrative staff. Tasked with overseeing student activities, Salazar has already begun working with student leadership and embracing her role as an assistant principal and a Viking.
Salazar was born in Japan and immigrated to the U.S. at the age of 5. She lived in Southern California’s Orange County during her childhood before moving north to attend UC Davis for college. There, she majored in Japanese in addition to International Relations with an emphasis on Economics.
After volunteering in a Japanese classroom during her undergraduate studies, Salazar discovered her love for teaching and working with high school students. She decided to pursue a career in education and earned her teaching credentials at San Francisco State University. Soon after, she started her first job at Cupertino High School, where she taught Japanese for 11 years. Salazar quit teaching to work as an assistant principal at Cupertino for five years until moving to Lynbrook this year.
As a new assistant principal, Salazar brings her experience of managing student activities at Cupertino to Lynbrook. Her role involves working closely with ASB and administrators to coordinate student-run activities. Salazar also has a personal mission to create measures that lead to a more caring and supportive environment for all students. Her first step is building meaningful relationships with students. Although being an assistant principal may mean she does not get to interact with students as much as teachers do, Salazar has been known to create meaningful bonds in spite of that fact. At Cupertino, she formed many personal connections with students, who found her to be welcoming and kind.
“Even though we only met once, she still remembered my name and talked to me,” said Megumi Ondo, a senior at Cupertino High School. “That made me feel really included and appreciated in the community. I know that a lot of our teachers are really dedicated, but I haven’t really seen anyone that’s just that kind to each student.”
While it was initially difficult for Salazar to leave teaching, she welcomed the opportunity to help more students on a larger scale as an assistant principal. Mental health is very important to Salazar, and at Cupertino, she was very passionate about supporting students who were struggling with such challenges. She connected students with guidance counselors and therapists and enjoyed helping students in need of support. At Lynbrook, she looks forward to fostering a supportive community by building relationships with students and encouraging them to support one another.
“The first big step in combating mental health is knowing that they’re not alone in this battle, and I’m glad to be part of that support system,” Salazar said.
In part due to her Japanese ancestry, Salazar believes it is important to respect people’s identity and individuality. Growing up Japanese American with immigrant parents, Salazar was used to being the bridge between two worlds and feeling out of place in both. But despite challenges, Salazar eventually found appreciation for her identity.
“I had to sing this Japanese song in front of all these people who didn’t understand a single word of Japanese, and that was really embarrassing,” Salazar said. “But I realized that’s kind of when I started to get a little bit more comfortable and open about talking about my heritage and my background to others.”
Surrounded by many students who are also second generation immigrants at Cupertino, Salazar was able to empathize with their experiences. At Lynbrook, Salazar hopes to become a sympathetic ear to students.
“I understand how having immigrant parents and growing up in America is very challenging,” Salazar said. “That’s a perspective that I think is unique, that I can share with other students, and hopefully they can understand that I’m here. I hear them, and I completely understand.”
In addition to her Lynbrook family, Salazar has a 9-year-old son, a 6 year-old daughter, a dog and a cat. Her dog’s name is Kokoro, which means heart in Japanese, and she recently adopted a cat named Chibi, which means tiny. Prior to the pandemic, she also played recreational volleyball and practiced rock climbing. Now, Salazar has discovered a new hobby: bullet journaling.
“I’ve never really been that artistic, but during a pandemic I did start bullet journaling,” Salazar said. “It’s really embarrassing, but that’s something that I started doing, just to kind of help me through the pandemic.”
Going into the new school year, Salazar is excited to foster a warm and compassionate culture at Lynbrook. She prioritizes Lynbrook’s students, always keeping her office door open for students who have anything they wish to discuss and for students hungry for snacks like Goldfish, Cheez-Its and Pringles.
“I want to encourage students to approach me and to know that I am approachable,” Salazar said. “Whatever it may be, I’m always here to listen, and I’m a really good listener.”