Mastering her art

Masami Toku

file PHOTO by laura brown

Masami Toku recently received the 2010-2011 Outstanding Teacher award from Chico State’s Faculty Recognition and Support Committee. Toku was born in Japan and worked in several different fields—including agriculture and art—before she crossed the Pacific to Chicago, where she discovered her love for teaching and art education. She came to Chico State in 1999 and serves as the faculty adviser for the art major, as well as an instructor. Currently, she is planning the third annual Far East Fusion, a cultural event that brings the Art, Food Science and Japanese departments together.

How do you connect with students?

I share with them my personal experience and my cultural background to bring them into my life. I have lots of experience with different cultural backgrounds, and I try to show them the motivation I have had to survive in America. I try to make my courses more attractive and meaningful for the students by not only just giving lecture, but also by involving them in a project, taking them outside, visiting a museum or gallery exhibition.

What class do you most enjoy teaching?

I really enjoy teaching art education to the liberal studies majors, the future teachers, because each student has a strong responsibility for the future to teach their own children. I also like art appreciation, because most of the students are not art majors and they have no art background at all. They decided to take my class because of the name, because it sounds like an easy class. But it’s not. I do lots of lecture and gradually, they are aware of the importance of art. After one semester, they tell me they learned a lot about how art is important. When I hear those comments from non-art majors, I am really, really happy.

What is your favorite thing about working at Chico State?

I really enjoy meeting many people. Chico is just the right size. It’s not too big, but not too small for faculty, staff and students to come from different areas and cultures. I like to hang around and meet people, too. That’s why I organized the Japanese Women’s Club. We meet once a month and enjoy exchanging ideas. I also enjoy the nature here in Chico. The environment is easy to enjoy.

What do you think makes a teacher outstanding?

My teaching philosophy is not to teach students, it’s to navigate them and give them direction, so they can see how many opportunities they have. I also try to encourage my students and tell them that life is not easy, but life is not bad. There are always good things and bad things at the same time, but I encourage students to find their own solutions to problems. I support them. I love talking to them. They teach me, too.