New Chaparral principal ready to rally Roadrunners

The Claremont Unified School District is pleased to welcome Lisa Yamashita as the new principal of Chaparral Elementary School.

Ms. Yamashita spent the last school year as an adjunct faculty member at Cal State Northridge, teaching English Language Development standards and supervising multiple subject student teachers. Previously, she spent five years as an elementary school teacher in Oregon.

Before that, Ms. Yamashita—who graduated from USC and earned her master’s degree in reading and language arts from Cal State Los Angeles—was an elementary school teacher with the Glendale Unified School District for eight years. She also spent two years as assistant principal at an elementary school in the Los Angeles Unified School District, with the supervision of special education students as one of her primary responsibilities.

Kevin Ward, assistant superintendent of human resources, noted that Ms. Yamashita’s strength at working with special education students and English learners was a key reason for her hiring. It also didn’t hurt that her references were top-notch.

“Each reference spoke of her strong, compassionate interpersonal abilities and her strength as an instructional leader. They spoke of her adept ability to be both a teacher and a strong teacher advocate, as well as a manager of all those responsibilities principals have,” Mr. Ward noted at a recent school board meeting. “They spoke of her gift in working with parents, from the very strong to the ones that do not get engaged.”

Engagement is not usually a problem at Chaparral, Ms. Yamashita has discovered.

“Claremont schools are really effective in that the students are really high achieving,” she said. “And the entire Chaparral community—the parents and the staff—have high expectations for students. Everyone here is an overachiever in the best sense.”

Chaparral’s emphasis on academics dovetails nicely with Ms. Yamashita’s modus operandi.

“One of my core values is that every child deserves to be successful at school every day,” she said. “Schools need to provide a learning environment that is full of joy and rigor.”

Ms. Yamashita didn’t always know she would be an educator. When she began college, she was a chemical engineering major. But she took one course that involved volunteering in classrooms. The days at schools were her favorite, so she switched her focus to education and hasn’t looked back.

Ms. Yamashita is impressed with the support that the Claremont community and local organizations like the Claremont Educational Foundation have shown for whole-child development. 

“This is the first district I’ve worked in that’s been able to maintain physical education instructors for elementary age students as well as instrumental and choral music programs,” she said.

She has also formed a strong admiration for the staff at Chaparral.

“They are really dedicated professionals with a vast number of years of experience,” she said. “Everyone has been very quick to help get me settled and acquainted with the community.”

The staff’s efforts have included a personal tour of the Claremont Village by second grade teacher Margaret Russel, who is a member of Claremont Heritage.

When Ms. Yamashita isn’t at work, her first priority is her family, which includes her husband Matt, their 3-year-old daughter Sarah, and an Australian Cattle Dog mix named Maisey.

Ms. Yamashita loves traveling, with Paris being a favorite destination. She also delights in playing golf after getting turned on to the sport in college. Though she’s only made it onto the greens a few times in the past couple of years, she is looking forward to November 13, when the school will host its annual fundraiser, the Road Runner Golf Classic and Dinner Auction, at the Via Verde Country Club in San Dimas.

Ms. Yamashita is a reader, especially of mystery novels and nonfiction books on spiritual topics like Buddhism. And she knows her way around the oven, having delved into pie-baking in the last few years. Her specialty is Double Crust Mixed Berry. Unsurprisingly, the I Like Pie dessert shop has become one of her favorite destinations in the Claremont Village.

Securing a principal that is a great fit for Chaparral and for the district as a whole is sweet, indeed, according to Mr. Ward.

“We believe she will be a great fit for the Claremont community and bring new strengths and gifts,” he said. “Her ability to work in collaboration with staff and families will ensure Chaparral’s continued growth.”

—Sarah Torribio


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