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LAUSD All-Star Hero: Vicki Nishimura is honored for her work with 50 years of students at Valley elementary school

Mike Szymanski | June 7, 2017

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Vicki Nishimura and the plaque that honors her 50 years of service.

She had long black hair down to her waist in 1968 when she started at Valley View Elementary School. Today, her hair is shorter, a bit grayer, but she’s still there and still teaching.

On Wednesday, Vicki Nishimura was honored for her 50 years of service to the school in Hollywood, and a plaque depicts pictures of her then and now. She retired from full-time teaching in 2002 but has volunteered at the school ever since, including teaching photography, writing, and the lost art of cursive handwriting.

“I am overwhelmed,” said Nishimura, 74, as she was surprised Wednesday by past and present students, teachers, and friends who came to dedicate “The Vicki Nishimura Reading Garden” with a bronze plaque and a party. “As a teacher, you don’t expect this kind of thing, you just do your work and wonder sometimes if anyone notices.”

Library aide Carole Cain has worked with Nishimura as a co-worker in the library, on the yearbook, and on the school’s recent Centennial Celebration. Her husband and son both attended the school.

“When she was my son’s second-grade teacher, I went in to volunteer in her class,” Cain recalled. “She kept her class in line but never raised her voice.”

Former colleague Suzi Reisman, now retired, said when she started teaching in 1989, Nishimura took her under her wing. “She had a good sense of humor and she showed me around,” Reisman remembered. “It was nice to have a friendly face when you start somewhere new.”

Vicki Nishimura and her husband, Tosh.

Valley View Principal Susan Kim considers Nishimura her mentor. Nishimura encouraged her to become a principal someday when Kim was teaching third grade at the school. Kim credited Nishimura’s work on the Centennial Project which brought together 100 years of stories of past students, principals, and teachers through video and photographs.

Nishimura is the school historian, still cataloging events for the yearbook on a digital camera that was a retirement gift from the staff. She recalled how her mother volunteered for more than two decades in her classroom where at one point she had hamsters and bunnies.

“My mom would be very proud of me,” Nishimura said after reading the plaque.

Her husband, Tosh, has teased her about her persistence in teaching cursive handwriting. The top of the plaque dubbing the area in front of the school garden as “The Vicki Nishimura Reading Garden” is purposely written in cursive, which is no longer a standard taught in elementary school.

“My husband said that someday cursive will be considered like a secret language,” Nishimura said. “I hope that is not the case.”

Reporter Mike Szymanski has been a longtime community supporter of Valley View Elementary School.


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