Asha Vassar Youmans ’89 P’16: Elementary School Teacher
Hugs are just part of a day’s work for teacher Asha Youmans ’89, here shown greeting a third grader in Seattle’s Bertschi School. The daughter of civil rights activist T.J. Vassar ’68, Youmans was guest teaching during the class’s Seattle history project.
Elementary School Teacher | Bertschi School, Seattle
By Jim Collins
Asha Youmans followed her father, the pioneering educator and civil rights champion T.J. Vassar ’68, into a career in teaching. She taught in the same low-income public preschool her father had attended. She revived the prekindergarten program at the private Bertschi School in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, and oversaw the class for a dozen years. She continues to teach at Bertschi part time, having watched her first class grow up and graduate from high school.
“Many Lakeside families have been through my classroom doors and become part of my Bertschi family, from their child’s very first year in school,” she says. “So many Lakeside paths have crossed with mine that it would take a chart to unravel all the connections.” Her first book, “Tiny Imperfections,” co-authored with Alli Frank, is a young-adult novel that explores themes of race, privilege, and education. It’s scheduled for publication in 2020. “Early education is my passion, my purpose, my jam,” says Youmans. “Someday I’m going to have my own little schoolhouse, named after my dad.”
“Trust your child’s teachers as partners. They’re with your kids six hours a day — you need to trust them.”
“Your little kids are brand-spanking new at this! It’s OK for them to stumble once in a while. They have 12 or 13 more years of school ahead of them.”
“Do your best. Dare to be wrong! Learn from your mistakes. Seek out parents and guardians of older-age kids to get a perspective on what’s ahead of you. You’ll understand that there’s always a new day to try and get things right.”
“If you want to teach your child about cultural competency, about citizenship, volunteer in a neighborhood that’s different from your own, and take your child with you. If you share the experience of being uncomfortable, then it’s twice the lesson.”
“Let your kids know that it’s OK to talk about the color of people’s skin. It’s OK to notice. In fact, it’s imperative.”
“It’s OK to get your kids outside of their comfort zones. In fact, it’s necessary.”