It’s 5th grade, so (it’s probably) 1973. Yakota AFB, my family’s last year in Japan. I must be age 11, plus or minus a year.
We attend school on-base, so it’s a military-run school system, rather than a civilian one. The kids are (mostly) the children of American servicemen stationed at Yakota, including me. Not as a grim as it sounds, the military presence in this part of Japan is pretty large (14000 airmen). The USAF was in the process of shifting personnel out of Tachikawa AFB (officially returned to the Japanese government in 1975) and into Yokota, including our family.
(Note I’m getting a lot of this info second-hand from Wikipedia; I was ten or eleven at the time! All that I remember of Tachikawa was how generally run-down the base and housing was, Yokota was newer and cleaner which Mom liked, I guess).
Anyway, it’s an upgrade to a much bigger base, newer facilities, newer housing, etc. And to a big (as in a lotta, lotta kids) Middle school.
I had Mr. Watanabe for math. And I honestly don’t remember a lot about him, except a round face, general impression of a goatee? He was Asian, of course, though I’m not certain if Japanese, Korean, Okinawan, Hawaiian, or Other.
But he was one of the most friendly and supportive teachers I’ve ever been blessed with. He detected a budding math-o-nerd and encouraged it, feeding me extra credit work, starting me on Algebra (!!!) in fifth grade…lots and lots of little noodges in the right direction—try this new stuff kid, you like learning this stuff, right? Here’s some more!
So thank you! Mr. Watanabe, middle school math teacher at Yokota AFB in the early 70s, if you’re out there somewhere. You probably don’t remember a thing about one more kid of the (surely) hundreds that passed through your doors, but he remembers you!
Is there a person you should’ve thanked, but never had the chance? Is there someone who helped you along the way without even realizing it? Here’s your chance to express your belated gratitude.