Academy of Science and Engineering
Los Angeles, California
Keiko Hiranaka learned the importance of applying what she learned in the classroom to everyday life while still in elementary school. She continued to look for educational programs to keep her on that growth trajectory, eventually joining the inaugural class of Aviation High School in Des Moines, Washington. “I helped establish the school alongside my classmates and the faculty. I was taught citizenship as a student.” The school was also the ideal place for Keiko to pursue her love of flying. “I flew a plane before I drove a car.” She took flight lessons during her junior and senior year of high school, culminating with a solo flight in October 2007.
Keiko believes that having had her voice heard as a student has given her the confidence to succeed. “I want to be able to pass that onto my students, no matter their background.” Keiko’s favorite teaching moment occurred when she thought she had failed as a teacher. When a group of middle school students she was teaching did not like the class, Keiko asked their opinions on how to make it more interesting. She consequently reworked the curriculum and the structure of the classroom. “This entire experience was amazing because I learned how to be a strong teacher while still maintaining flexibility so that my students could have fun.”
Keiko graduated from Harvey Mudd College with a joint degree in mathematics and computer science. She has interned at Pomona Hope, a nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening an impoverished community in Los Angeles County, and has gone on several missions trips to an orphanage in Mexico. She still takes every opportunity to hit the skies and “see our beautiful world from a different perspective.”