Empowerment is the best superpower

Each year, Champions honors site directors who go above and beyond in creating a high-quality before-and-after school environment. Champions has always been a part of Aiko Sato’s life – she grew up attending the program. Now, she leads the program at Cooper Mountain Elementary School in Beaverton, Ore. Aiko stays inspired to be her best by the joy her children get from the days they spend at Champions. The award winner is passionate about living our Service Values and creating a fun, safe, and loving space for the children in her care.

How long have you been with Champions?
I’ve been with Champions since 2012, but if we go back in time to when I was a student in the program, you could say that Champions has been a part of my life for more than 10 years!

What do you love most about your job?
I love that I get to make the kids laugh every day. In teaching them I get to see what brilliant students they are, but the greatest joy is watching them become passionate, empathetic, and energized individuals and to be able to be a part of that growth is incredible. I think that a successful educator for this age group is a role model first, and the instruction follows.

What Service Value resonates most with you and why?
The Service Value that resonates most with me is “I genuinely care about every child in my classroom.” I’m sure we all feel this way, and it’s why we do what we do. We want to hear what the kids want to learn about, what they’re struggling with, what they love, and what gets them excited. I try to have a relationship with their school teachers and parents so we can create a network of adults that are looking out for them. The communication aspect is important of course, and having an ongoing dialogue with parents about their children is crucial–but what the kids pick up is when we’re all on board in supporting them and encouraging them, and I think they take that energy and thrive. Empowerment is the greatest superpower!

What advice would you give to your colleagues?
I would advise them to take a breath and always remember why we chose this profession. I Think that we all have rough days somethimes where the kids seem out of our control and we question if we’re doing a good enough job. But the thing is, that doubt is indicative of the high standards we set for ourselves and it creates this vast spectrum of our capabilities both emotionally and professionally. And on good days, take a breath too! Remain present and grounding in the loving feedback from the kids we get to have in our lives. It’s necessary to indulge in that glow sometimes.

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