By MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS
Rafu Staff Writer
TORRANCE.–It was the worst-kept secret in school, but nobody minded one bit.
Eileen Hirata, a third grade teacher at Arnold Elementary School in Torrance, was “surprised” by a large group of her coworkers, family, friends and students with an after school party Tuesday, celebrating her being one of 12 recipients of a nationwide teachers award.
Hirata was among the dozen chosen out of thousands of entries to be named Expo Extraordinary Educators, in a contest sponsored by Expo, a company known primarily for their dry erase markers and whiteboards. As part of the award, Hirata earned a $500 gift card and $1,000 worth of Expo school supplies will be donated to Arnold Elementary.
“I was supposed to have a meeting with the principal here, and she changed the time,” Hirata explained. “She said, ‘I need you to look at something in the cafeteria,’ and as soon as she said that, I knew something was up.”
Despite being tipped off to the party, Hirata was delighted by the show of love, as she received a commemorative plaque and a flower lei, to rousing applause.
“I knew I had won two weeks ago, because the company sent congratulations and they came to my class to film a commercial that ran for a week on NBC,” Hirata admitted.
The newly decorated teacher was nominated for the honor by parent Laurie Hernandez. In her essay, Hernandez described Hirata as an “amazing” teacher, who helped her students learn how to create and publish a newspaper. She also helped some of her kids establish a fan club for a popular actress on the Disney Channel, then helped arrange for that star to visit the students, she wrote.
Hirata also helped create educational, themed events, such as “Noodle Day” and “Family Math Night,” the essay went on to describe.
On Monday evening, Hirata was recognized during the regular meeting of the Torrance school board, during which board President Al Muratsuchi said, “It’s great teachers like you that make our school district great.”
This isn’t the first auspicious occasion for Hirata. In 2002, she received a regional teacher’s award from Sam’s Club, applauding the efforts of educators in the South Bay area.