Courtesy of Mariangela Asato
As you walk down the stairs and through the lower halls of Seabury Hall’s Upper School to room 102, the sweet sound of OV7’s “Te Quiero Tanto” pours out of the classroom. When you walk through the door, the first thing that catches your eye is a happy Señora Mariangela Asato, dancing in her desk chair and quietly sing-humming the soulful chorus.
Most days, Peruvian native Señora Asato comes to class with a musical lesson plan, a fun photo-filled Powerpoint, and her most important accessory, a gleaming smile.
Asato was born and raised in the city of Chiclayo, Peru along with two older sisters and an older brother. She attended Santa Maria Reina Catholic School for her first year of high school, an all-girls school run by nuns, and she finished her last four years of high school at a co-ed private catholic school.
Although her father had hoped for her to become a lawyer, Asato studied education at Pedro Ruiz Gallo University, while living at home.
Asato first discovered her love for teaching at the young age of seven. “One of my favorite games to play was that I was the teacher and the dolls were the students. I would put the dolls around the table and my mom, because she knew I loved to do those things, got me this board that I wrote the name of my school on. I think I named my school Sacred Heart. That’s how things started,” remembered Asato.
Originally, Asato planned on switching from her education major to studying law, but once she began studying education, she knew it was what she loved to do. Asato said of her choice to study education: “My dad did not want me to become a teacher, because of the money. But it doesn’t matter. I mean you just have to follow what you want. I love what I do.”
After working hard on her English, she hesitantly applied for and received, a full-ride scholarship which would bring her to teach Spanish at Seabury Hall. Asato found herself leaving the country for the very first time and boarding a plane to Maui, Hawaii in 2007.
Asato’s story shows the benefits of knowing multiple languages. “Being bilingual, to know other languages, has opened my doors. Believe me, I was so scared. It changed my life. When I got accepted I was like…Oh my god. What is coming? So, I came to the U.S., and you know the rest. It’s like…I’m here now,” she said.
Her move to Maui changed everything for Asato. It was her first time out of the country and the first time away from her parents, and it completely opened her eyes.
Ever since her visit to Maui, she has not stopped traveling. Upon returning to Peru, she filed for immigration papers, got married, and moved to Maui with her husband Casey Asato, a fellow teacher, whom she met while teaching at Seabury Hall.
From then on, every summer she has traveled the world with her husband to places like Spain, or a cross-country road trip to visit America’s national parks. Her favorite place she has visited besides Peru is a state in Southern Mexico called Oaxaca. The Asatos stayed in Oaxaca for one month and immersed themselves in the region’s great traditions and culture.
Both Asatos have supervised the OutReach360 Winterim, which typically goes to Nicaragua or the Dominican Republic. Señora Asato refers to OutReach360 as one of the best things she has ever done apart from teaching Spanish because of the impact she sees it has on students.
High school students or families fly to either of the developing countries to teach the children in these countries for one week and to experience cultural activities. Even one of Seabury Hall’s own students, class of 2015 alum Gabby Diaz, decided she wanted to become a teacher after experiencing this Winterim.
“I come from a developing country, so I already knew what it was like. What people don’t have, how the houses will be. Personally, it reminds me of who I am and where I come from. To value what I have here, and what others don’t have. Now that I’m here, I don’t have to work three jobs. I have a house. It reminds me of my origins. People in Nicaragua, in Jinotega, are so kind, so nice. I learn from them to be kind. To have a smile no matter what,” Asato said.
Señora Asato explained that outside of her many clases de español, she is not the best cook, but she has a passion for dancing. Her best friend is definitely her mother, who used to call her “Gordita” growing up (similar to how we call children “Pumpkin” in America).
When asked to describe the knowledgeable Asato in three words, Seabury Hall junior Eliza Wright instantly said, “Energetic, caring, and passionate. She has become a friend, or a travel buddy even. Don’t be intimidated by the Asatos, just because they’re teachers. They both really, honestly care about everyone.”
Seabury Hall is definitely lucky to have Señora Asato in our community. If you are ever looking for a pick-me-up, a smile, a travel buddy, or a new song to be endlessly stuck in your head, do yourself a favor and go find Mariangela Asato in room 102.