Japanese teacher Kumi Kobayashi reflects on 15 years at Lynbrook


Nicole Ong

After 15 years at Lynbrook, Japanese teacher Kumi Kobayashi will be moving to Los Gatos High School for the 2018-2019 school year.

Nicole Ong and Patricia Wei

Every day, Japanese teacher Kumi Kobayashi, known to her students as Kobayashi-sensei, greets her class with a cheerful, “Minasan, ohayogozaimasu!” For the past 15 years, Kobayashi has used her bubbly personality and innovative ideas to become a dynamic language teacher. Her Japanese language students learn not only how to read, write and speak Japanese, but also further apply their skills by writing pen pal letters to high school students in Fukuoka, Japan, cooking Japanese dishes and speaking with Japanese mothers. At Lynbrook, Kobayashi has been the language department head and the adviser of Japanese Club, Japanese National Honor Society and Japan Bowl.

Next year, she will be teaching at Los Gatos High School. Read a Q&A with Kobayashi as she reflects on her time at Lynbrook.

How have you changed since you first came here?

2003 was my first year at Lynbrook. A lot of things have happened since then. I had 2 kids. I became a mom.

At first, I felt like I was more focused on my subject and role as a Japanese language teacher. Now, I feel like a more all-around educator. Since I grew up in Japan, there’s a lot of things I didn’t know about how students in America learn and what hopes they have for the future.

I care more about students as a whole and spend time getting to know them. If you’re not going to be happy or comfortable in my classroom, then you probably won’t have a good experience. I really enjoy getting to know my students.

What have been your favorite moments at Lynbrook?

I really like my tutorials. A lot of students come to hang out. They ask a lot of questions, and I get to learn what they’re worried about or what they enjoy. I get to learn about what they do after school and over weekends. Sometimes I love to just talk to them so I can understand why they’re so stressed out. I like to get to know students. I love it when students come back and say, “Hi Sensei!” because they look forward to coming here. Understanding each student is the fun part. 

High school life is so short. Enjoy the experience.

— Kumi Kobayashi

What have you liked about Lynbrook?

I love Lynbrook because students love to learn. Students love to learn, they have respect, they care about understanding and getting things done. They like learning new things. It’s challenging for me to respond to all the different interests and learning styles students have. In general, the students here are great. 

What will you miss about this school?

Everything. I will miss each student. I can’t believe I’m leaving. The staff and administration have been great. It’s just that I want to try something new. It’ll be a new challenge, but an opportunity like that doesn’t come around often for Japanese teachers. I will definitely miss all the students I taught for so many years. 

What advice would you give to your students?

I want everyone to enjoy the process of learning. It’s not easy. If you make it a habit of practicing, you can make progress and actually feel that progress. You can understand more. It’s more fun! It’s not so much, “I have to study for a quiz.” That’s not the fun part of language learning. You have to use it. It allows you to understand people, talk to more people and people give you good feedback.That is the fun part. I want you to understand and enjoy that. So much of a student’s life can be: you have to get this far, you have to achieve, you have to pass this point or competition, but then you’re not really living in the moment. High school life is so short. I think you should just enjoy it. In the language classroom, I hope you guys can enjoy that and not worry so much about quizzes, tests and homework. Enjoy the experience.