Meeting Steve Inouye is like shaking hands with sunshine. So it’s no surprise that when I ask him what inspires him each day his answer comes easily.
“I like being able to help people, that’s what drives me to do what I do.”
What Steve does every day is teach kids at Dixon High School Mathematics–and help them see how fun it can be. I tell him that’s not easy to do, to make Math fun–that it’s not a typical M-O for other math teachers. He laughs back,
Steve’s “immaturity” is catchy, and it’s not long before I’m laughing along with him. In fact I chuckle through our entire interview, and what usually is a 20 minute chat turns into an hour long talkfest–mostly because I don’t want the conversation to end. I ask Steve his secret to making something as classically difficult for many as Math popular with his students, even with his reputation of being the “hard” Math teacher. His answer is simple: keep them engaged.
“When I have kids come to class and say ‘gosh Inouye this class went fast’ or ‘I like to be here’ then I know I’ve done an okay job.”
Steve does the same thing on the after school sports field, coaching everything from T-ball to soccer for the children of Davis. He says his coaching style is exactly like his Math teaching style–making sure the kids are having so much fun they don’t even realize they’re learning.
“I tell the kids, ‘what’s the most important thing about soccer? The snack at the end of the game!’ They ask me, ‘Who won?’ and I say ‘I don’t know but all I know is when it’s over I’m having a (makes up a funny flavor) snow cone!’”
And it’s this sense of humor that stands out in my entire hour talking to Steve Inouye. In his past he’s dealt with some very serious times–he lost both his parents by the age of 18 and raised himself and his two younger brothers alone. That in itself might cause a person to be sour on life. But Steve Inouye seems to be just the opposite–making kids learn, making kids laugh and making me grateful I got to meet with him.
As I listen to our taped interview I find that though we talked a full hour, it is at the very beginning of our chat where I find the most telling commentary on Steve, by Steve. In response to my comment that he is really quite a guy he laughs warmly and with self-deprecation–and years of hard won experience–describes himself instead in a very different way,
“No no, I’m nothing. Nothing. I’m just self-preserved.”