Bye, bye West Coast, hello Midwest

Kawakatsu moving to Chicago, her future unplanned


Alex Goldbeck/Talon

Science teacher Yukako Kawakatsu moving from “the golden state” to the “windy state.”

After six years of teaching AP Environmental Science, chemistry and biology classes, Anatomy & Physiology and Foundations of Science in the Oak Park, California sunshine, Yukako Kawakatsu is getting ready for a change in weather. Kawakatsu will be leaving for Chicago, Illinois after the school year ends to be with her fiancé, who matched to a surgical residency at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

“I’m going to move to Chicago because he already lives in Chicago — we will figure it out,” Kawakatsu said.

While her fiancé has his job set in stone, Kawakatsu has not yet figured out what she will do in Chicago. The couple found out about his match in March, so Kawakatsu utilized time over spring break to look for opportunities. She’s thinking of transitioning away from a classroom environment.

“I potentially am considering doing a little of a career pivot,” Kawakatsu said. “Still education-related and still related to science, [but] maybe not in the classroom.”

The transition from Oak Park to Chicago will be a difficult one, she explained. Not only will the weather be a complete change for Kawakatsu, who is getting ready to buy all new winter jackets, but she will be leaving her home.

“I’m really sad about leaving Oak Park because it’s been like home for the last six years. I have been here for a while and I’ll miss working with everyone and all the students,” Kawakatsu said.

The Oak Park administration will miss Kawakatsu and all she has done for the school.

“We wish Ms. K all the best in her move and will miss her dedication to OPHS and passion for teaching. She is a valuable member of our faculty and science department and has helped us move our science curriculum forward into the next generation of science standards,” Principal Kevin Buchanan said.

Kawakatsu has helped the science department since the beginning of her career at Oak Park High School. Winnie Litten, the head of the science department, has relied on Kawakatsu’s help as the school changed the science curriculum.
“She was invaluable to the implementation of our NGSS goals and the impact of her ideas has influenced hundreds of students in multiple classrooms. I relied on her brilliance of mind regularly. She is passionate about her curriculum, her sports and always has met and exceeded expectations one could even hope for. She will be missed dearly as she has been woven into the very fabric of our hearts,” Litten said.

Along with the administration and the science department, the students will miss her and her passion for their education.

“Ms. Kawakatsu truly takes the time to invest herself in her students in order to ensure their success. She is generous and kind and brings both new perspective and a lively atmosphere into the classroom,” senior Sarah Levy said. “She is an absolute joy and while she will be missed, I wish her all the luck in the future.”

Kawakatsu attributed the feeling of family to her relationship with students. She has taught six generations of Oak Park High School students, who often stay in touch.

“The seniors will graduate and they will come back and visit during break and tell me about all the things they are doing,” she said.

Despite the dramatic changes to come, Kawakatsu said she is excited. It will be five years in Chicago which, according to her, is a nice time to transition and settle down.

“I am excited to experience Chicago in the summer and good food since Chicago has great food,” she said.

The opportunity comes with a change of scenery and a brand new city for Kawakatsu.

“This has been my finance’s dream, to become an orthopedic surgeon, and so it’s finally happening,” Kawakatsu said. “He’s worked really hard for this opportunity so I’m excited.”