Local Teacher Receives National Recognition
On Feb. 28, Alameda Science and Technology Institute (ASTI) teacher Todd Higashi was surprised to see his family, students and colleagues gathering at the beginning of lunch. What he didn’t realize is he would receive a national education award known as “LifeChanger of the Year.” The honor recognizes and rewards teachers who make significant impacts on students’ lives.
As one of just 15 LifeChangers in the country, Higashi has contributed to the school and students’ well-being in numerous ways. He teaches biology, media studies, physical education and current life. He also actively leads and participates in various school clubs.
Higashi’s most notable contribution is developing the school garden. For over a year, he, along with many community organizations and students, transformed a grassy, unused piece of land into today’s thriving garden. Students in his Green Club tend the garden by regularly watering, planting seasonal produce and removing weeds. It is home to a myriad of organic fruits and vegetables and is used as an outdoor classroom that promotes sustainability and healthy eating.
Higashi is greatly concerned about his students’ emotional health. On his LifeChangers webpage profile, students commented on Higashi’s brilliant work. (https://lifechangeroftheyear.com/todd-higashi/)
“I think the best thing about Higashi is his support and kindness,” Maryam Bahgat wrote. “He always seems to make time to help his students even though he has so much work to do.”
Angelica Alvarez also attests to this. “I know that he has helped so many of my friends and classmates through difficult times because that’s just the type of person he is. I owe him a lot, and have a lot to thank him for,” she wrote.
According to LifeChangers representative Matt Kane Higashi is one of the few teachers to win the national LifeChangers award, which grants $1,500 to the winner and $1,500 to the school. Students and staff nominate candidates for the award. Nominees must meet a rigorous set of eligibility requirements. After nominations close, a selection committee comprising of higher education professionals reviews the nominees and selects the top 15 winners for that school year.
Higashi recently accepted the Green Ribbon “Silver” Award on behalf of the school for its efforts in reducing environmental impact. His students and colleagues call him ASTI’s “eyes, ears and heart.” They call his impact on students, inside and outside the classroom, “remarkable.”
When asked about his teaching experience, Higashi said, “I really enjoy teaching at ASTI. It’s like being around a large family all day. It’s great that the school gets recognized and they received a monetary reward as well, but I don’t teach for awards. All teachers work hard and make differences in the lives of their students, it’s not just me.”