Teacher of the Year named at Ganado ISD
In a remarkable journey spanning continents and professions, Dr. Yusuke Yahagi has found himself in the heart of Ganado, not as a world-renowned cardiothoracic surgeon, but as a high school teacher who recently earned the prestigious “Teacher of the Year” award from the “Extra Yard for Teachers,” a national program by the College Football Playoff Foundation.
“My journey began when I was born in Tokyo, Japan. At 16, I came to Seattle as an exchange student, marking the start of my international adventures,” he said. “After graduating from high school, I pursued a major in chemistry and a minor in math at the University of Washington.”
However, life took an unexpected turn as he got married and had to support his family. This led him to the world of international banking, where he achieved the distinction of being named “Regional Banker of the Year” for his exceptional contributions.
It was only after accumulating enough savings Dr. Yahagi decided to pursue his lifelong dream of becoming a doctor. He enrolled in medical school in Tokyo and graduated as the second-ranked student in his class. Returning to the United States, he underwent a rigorous medical training journey which took him to various renowned institutions. This included internship in Seattle, general surgery training at the University of Kansas, thoracic surgery at the University of California-San Francisco, and a fellowship at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.
After completing his extensive training, Dr. Yahagi received job offers from various cities across the United States, but ultimately chose Victoria.
“I spent 13 years as the Chief of Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery at the Citizens Medical Center in Victoria, where I performed over 3,000 surgical cases on the heart, lungs, and vascular system,” he said. “My dedication and service led me to receive a letter of honor from the Texas State House of Representatives.”
While practicing medicine in Victoria, Dr. Yahagi’s talents extended far beyond the operating room. He published a book titled “The Exchange Soldier,” which gained popularity not only in the United States but also in Germany. Dr. Yahagi’s creative spirit found another outlet as he became the lead singer and guitarist of the band “Dr. Yahagi & the Mended Hearts,” releasing a CD with all original songs he wrote himself. The band participated in numerous benefit concerts to support heart patients, and one of their songs, “Lung Cancer,” even found its way onto local radio stations.
Dr. Yahagi’s talents weren’t limited to the medical and music world. He made appearances on television, including participating in the “Dancing with the Stars Victoria version” twice and winning the Judge’s award both times. He also dedicated his knowledge and experience to education, teaching at the University of Houston-Victoria and Victoria College.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Dr. Yahagi decided to retire from surgery. However, retirement wasn’t in his nature. With a wealth of teaching experience at colleges and universities, he desired to make an impact at the high school level.
“Initially I was going to retire for good after COVID slowed all the surgical procedures. Till then, I was 24x7, 365 days a year on call for 13 years straight. Then since I have experience of teaching at college and universities I wanted to get back into teaching. I thought, ‘You are not a teacher until you teach at high school.’”
The opportunity he was waiting for came when Ganado ISD had an opening for a Biology and Anatomy & Physiology teacher. Dr. Yahagi embraced the role with enthusiasm, and now he teaches Biology, Chemistry, and Anatomy & Physiology. Currently, he is in his second year at Ganado ISD.
Dr. Yahagi’s dedication and passion for teaching have not gone unnoticed. Two weeks ago, he received the “Teacher of the Year” award during a school pep rally, a recognition well-deserved for his outstanding contributions to education. The CFP Foundation “elevates the teaching profession by implementing and supporting activities across four main areas: resources, recognition, recruitment, and professional development.”
At Ganado’s pep rally on October 20, Dr. Yahagi gave an inspiring opening speech. He gave everyone three life lessons and on his last one, he said, “I’ll tell you what, and you know what I’m going to say. Be somebody. It takes commitment, dedication, and enthusiasm. It’s not easy. It takes focus, concentration. Participation. Anticipation. Courage. It takes everything. But I know you can be somebody and I want you to be proud of yourself when you become somebody.”
Dr. Yahagi’s remarkable journey is a testament to the power of perseverance, a thirst for knowledge, and a passion for making a difference in the lives of others. From saving lives in the operating room to inspiring and educating the next generation, Dr. Yahagi continues to be a shining example of the impact one person can have on the world.