Staff Focus: Ben Nakagaki, Secondary Mathematics Teacher

Written by: Roseline Yang, Community Relations Officer

Since the beginning of the year, I hear a lot of praises about you Ben, especially from parents whose children are in your class! They say how creative and engaging you are with the students. I was always wondering what you were doing that was so special. The other day, I was joining a French-Spanish speaking family visiting Century Park campus for their three children and we walked into your classroom: I loved the Maths Learning objectives you put on your wall as well as these funny photos having students reflect.

Yes, I know that learning Maths takes hard work, open mindsets, and a bit of fun.  So, I try my best to make learning Maths engaging as well as help meet the needs of each student. I am thrilled to work here because I have small class sizes, which allows me to tailor the learning individually and help every student improve, which was not always the case in the US.

Ah, yes! Can you tell me about all the usual questions: Where are you from, what you studied and where did you use to work before joining YCIS?
I was born in the cold state of Minnesota, USA. I had a wonderful time at the University of Saint Thomas (Minnesota) leading and participating in a number of clubs and graduated with a double major in Mathematics and Education.  I later got Graduate degree from the University of Saint Mary’s (Minnesota) and earned my Masters of Arts in Education.  I taught many levels of Maths for 12 years in an Secondary school in White Bear Lake, Minnesota where I led a number of clubs, coached various sports, and ran our version of our CAS club which had over 200 members every year!

What do you like so much about Math? Do you also have other passions?
I have always had a passion for Mathematics because I have always been drawn to its logic. Besides, it’s incredible how Maths is so present in the everyday world and that is a perspective I want to bring to my classrooms. I really like teaching using technology platforms that make math come to life, specifically Desmos and Geometer’s Sketchpad, which I studied through courses at UC Berkeley.

All that Maths makes my soul and body crave balance so I really enjoy playing basketball and golf as well as playing instruments such as the ukulele, viola, piano, and guitar.

Which are the levels you are teaching in Secondary school? What do you enjoy the most here at YCIS?
I teach Math to Year 7, 8, 9 and Year 11 and 12 and I coached the Girls Cissac Basketball team who were really great risk-takers.

What I like a lot here is the positive attitude of the kids, who come to school with a willingness to learn. In the US, schools are tougher because we need to focus a lot on classroom management. Here, the classes are nicer for their size and I can focus on the Academic part. Actually, here my challenge is that my Year 7 students will all raise their hands at the same time to participate. I am impressed by the community as well as the eagerness to share. What a wonderful struggle to have! (Hahaha!)

This is your first year here. How well did you and your family adapt in Shanghai?
We have all adjusted well. My wife and the girls enjoy Shanghai and YCIS a lot. Nina who is in Y2 has a lot of fun and Vivian in K4 as well. This makes it easy to focus, when your family is happy!

Nice! So, what do you like about the school from a parent point of view?
ECE: I love the mentality. I love the fact that the kids are working together. For example, in one of the SeeSaw posts, I saw that they were doing charts together. What a great way to learn!

Primary: A lot of homework from the US. point of view! But I understand that here in China, the environment is very competitive, so you have to adapt to it.

Let’s finish with what you like to do as a family here in Shanghai? 
We love to explore the city. It is humongous. There are so many different places and so many things to see, so many events and so many different food to try. Something fun that we have done in Shanghai is to stop at each metro station and see around the place. Now that we know better the city, it is so interesting to see how everything is connected.