In every organization there are the splashy, high profile “front people,” and we need a couple of them. And then there are the behind the scenes, trusted steadies who are the heart and soul, who purr in the background and quietly define the organization …
She was hired in 1999. That’s 16 years ago. She’s been a rock, or perhaps more like an easy chair …
Miho Gwiazdowski (Kumai, before marrying George) is almost exactly my age, within a few days. So it is not hard from me to guess when she graduated with her B.A. from Tokyo Gakugei University, though I’m not saying. She offers the Japanese classes at The Grauer School but more: She is the embodiment of our Japanese program, our Japanese culture, and our Japanese spirit. We currently have four students studying Japanese, each with a special connection to Miho. Says student Seth (Class of 2017), “Being in her class feels like taking a vacation to Japan in the middle of the day. She is such a great teacher …”
Over the years, Miho’s students have rolled sushi, created soup out of miso, and picked at sticky rice with chopsticks. In Clean Green Eats, Miho’s daughter quotes Leonardo DaVinci: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” As a teacher, Miho is a master in this area: Moreover, Miho’s lessons always include an experiential component, enabling students to organize information, work with their hands, form groups, address real life situations in the Japanese ways, and create and eat super-nutritious and simple Japanese foods, traditional and modern. “Every class she has something prepared in addition to the lesson like Origami or a show to enrich and stimulate our educational experience,” says Victoria (class of 2017).
The Japanese traditionally embody the qualities of deference and decorum. Never has Miho missed an opportunity to bring us back a gift from her annual visits to Japan. Tea services, fans, and chopsticks—you name it. She would never expect anything in return and, therefore, our resolve to honor and respect her grows greater. If you ask me, Miho should inherit the earth.
Among my favorite gifts from Miho are the books her daughter, the celebrity chef Candice Kumai, writes. We always get a signed copy. Clean Green Eats and Cook Yourself Sexy are my favorites, though I may have to stick to the former. When it comes to our nation’s clean food chefs, she is at the top. Candace says, “I have to give all the credit for the way I eat to my beautiful mother [Miho].” Miho showed her now-famous daughter the way and she has now spent 16 years showing her students that, as teachers and parents, the most beautiful things we have to pass along are our food choices and cooking. Victoria puts it in a way almost any student would: “My favorite part of class is getting a snack at the end!” We must cook with our children and students!
Thank you, Miho! Here is a notion: In a majority of cases, it is not true that people primarily love their jobs or schools, per se—what they love is their people. We love our schools when we trust and admire the people who are there for and with us. I know that’s what keeps me coming to Grauer for 25 years now. When Miho smiles at you or stops by to greet you, which she always does, there is not the slightest doubt in the world that this is a genuine, simple, and blessing smile, and she has done this for 16 years. Miho reaches us all in this way, in service, and we can only want to serve her in return. What greater teaching could there ever be?