10 Questions with Midori Ishizuka ’11

Majoring in history and film studies in college, Midori Ishizuka ’11 returned to Andover as an instructor in History and Social Sciences and Girls Varsity Squash Assistant Coach in 2018. Outside of the classroom, Ishizuka enjoys skiing, playing tennis, watching television, and hand-brewing coffee. She is also a house counselor in the Andover Inn.

1. How did you come to work at Andover?

After college, I actually worked in advertising at an agency in New York City, producing and project managing traditional print and TV ads for a variety of brands, [and] for some national campaigns. But, I wasn’t feeling very fulfilled with what I was producing, I wanted to be around people that were learning and growing, and so that’s how I got into teaching. I talked to Mr. Housiaux, he was my rel-phil teacher, and I remember him mentioning: why don’t you try the teaching fellowship? And I was like, I’m not sure if teaching’s for me, I’ve never considered it. [But] I tried it for that one year, and I loved it.

2. Why did you decide to pursue a teaching career in History and Social Science?

I originally just loved history in school, but I didn’t think I was going to major in it until I started to continually choose history classes. I love and I teach it because history informs everything in the world that we live in today. It helps us become the people we want to become, because… we are able to have discourse around current events in an educated way, and we’re able to understand human connection, why people do things the way they do things, and why the world around us is shaped that way.

3. What were some challenges that you faced at Andover, and how did you overcome them?

I think the biggest challenges that I remember were feeling insecure… trying to figure out embracing my identity as an Asian woman, or back then, as a teenager, with all the pressures that I was feeling from standards of beauty that are ingrained in us through society. When asked about how I have overcome that – with perspective, and with realizing that people do love you unconditionally and also that people embrace your differences. It’s always still an ongoing journey.

4. What extracurriculars were you a part of during your time as a student at Andover?

In Mr. Housiaux’s class, we watched a little bit of a video by a gender equality activist, Jackson Katz. He was talking about masculinity in the media. I remember saying we need to get him to come to campus to talk to us about toxic masculinity. [I received] an Abbot Grant for around $10,000 to bring him to speak. That really made me want to be involved more in the Brace Center, and gender equality, equity, and also sexual and domestic violence and awareness. I decided to just jump into a Brace Fellowship, I wrote about rape myths, and I started a club, I think it was Andover Sexual and Domestic Violence Awareness Club.

5. What is it like coworking with your former squash coach, Jelliott [Jennifer Elliott ’94], now that you are also a squash coach?

It’s amazing because there was nothing strange about me coming into this role, it somehow just seemed like it fit, that Coach Elliott was my mentor and coach when I was a senior, and then as a new faculty to the school she really mentored me through the program, and then now we [work] side by side. The ways in which we came back together after ten, eleven years ago is very much an analogy for life; that things can work out, that life can surprise you [and] that relationships stand the test of time.

6. If you could spend a day in any time period, when would it be and why?

I would be really curious to have lived in the late 60s, early 70s in the US, just because of how tumultuous it was, but also how pivotal those years were, for many reasons domestically [and] internationally. We were involved in the Vietnam War, there was a lot going on with civil rights, there was a lot of great music coming out of that era. I would’ve loved to have gone to some live shows for some great rock, some great funk. I would love to wear some bell-bottoms, have my long hair, dress very much for the time period.

7. In the Minute And Over video you did a few months ago, you used the word “transformative” to describe your experience at Andover; could you elaborate on that?

Andover was a place where I really started to see myself as a whole person, somebody that was preparing to go on into the real world, not just into my next phase of schooling. But, it can be very difficult to take in all the things that Andover, high school, and just being a young woman can put on you. I think the transformative aspect of that is when I left Andover, I both had a stronger sense of who I was and also really felt tired from all of the tumultuousness of being a young teenager. It really changed me in that way because it made me realize the depth of my emotions, and it really set me up for this ongoing journey of how do I embrace those qualities in myself to figure out what kind of person I wanted to be as an adult in this world.

8. Who is a role model that you look up to?

As I’ve grown up a little bit, I realized I’ve gotten much closer to my mom. We used to butt heads when I was in high school a lot more, and [I realized] that we are just so much more similar than I thought. She is always, and always has been, I just don’t think I appreciated it as much, my biggest role model. She is so selfless and cares a lot, flatters everyone else, and she does it in a way that it’s second nature to her… She just does it because that’s what she feels is right.

9. What do you like to do in your free time?

I like to watch TV, I love to ski, I love to play tennis. My sister, who’s Mr. Ishizuka-Wade’s [Instructor in English] wife, they just had a baby, Kaito, and he’s seven months old. I love playing with him, [and] they have a dog Mochi, I love playing with him. I also like to make a fresh cup of coffee, that’s the treat for me. I grind my own beans, I pour over hot water, it’s a very special ritual.

10. Are there any aspects of campus that have changed since your time at Andover?

We have all these additions, [like] Snyder. I used to play squash at the old courts in Borden Gym. When I was a student, Commons was being renovated, so we actually spent a couple years in what was the Smith Center, which has been demolished to build the Pan Athletic Center, but we called it “Uncommons.” But this campus is still very familiar, it’s more the small spaces; I just remember the circle of stones outside of Gelb, sitting there.