Anaheim Union High School District Superintendent Michael Matsuda has been named the 2017 Administrator of the Year by the California Association of Bilingual Education.
Recognized for his leadership on bilingualism within Anaheim Union, as well as his civic engagement, Matsuda was presented with the honor during this year’s CABE Conference, which was held March 29 through April 1 at the Anaheim Marriott.
CABE is a statewide advocacy organization that promotes equity and access for language learners, particularly those whose home language is not English. The organization annually honors an educational leader who has contributed to bilingual education and language-learner programs, advocated on behalf of a philosophy that reflects cultural sensitivity and high expectations, and promoted effective bilingual education strategies.
Matsuda has served as superintendent of the Anaheim Union High School District since 2014. Before that, he spent eight years as the district’s teacher support and professional development coordinator, overseeing major professional development initiatives for more than 1,300 teachers and over 700 teacher volunteers.
As the son of Japanese-Americans who were interned during World War II — and whose language and culture were suppressed — Matsuda knows first-hand the importance of cultivating an active and engaged citizenry.
“For me, community service is really an extension of my own capacity for empathy and becoming more self-actualized as a human being,” he said.
“Growing up in Orange County during the sixties and seventies at the height of the Vietnam War when there were very few people of Asian descent, I was tormented and discriminated against by looking like the ‘enemy,’ similarly as my parents were in World War II,” Matsuda said. “As Orange County changed demographically in the late seventies and eighties, when there were many more Asian-Americans and Latinos, I realized that there was no safety net of services that were language and culturally competent to support these growing populations.”
Characterized by colleagues as a hands-on educator and a champion for language-learners, Matsuda has co-edited the article “Transforming Curriculum: Incorporating the Vietnamese-American Experience into K-12 Education” and co-authored a children’s book on the landmark Mendez v. Westminster civil rights case.
He has also served as president of Californians Together, the largest advocacy coalition for language learners in California. In 2010, under his leadership, Californians Together published a large and influential study on secondary students who, despite many years in school, have not attained English proficiency. The specific policy and instructional recommendations contained in the study were put into practice by Matsuda, who increased awareness of the large number of long-term English learners and helped build instructional capacity within his district. It should be noted that the superintendent even promoted and awarded the Seal of Biliteracy before it was adopted by the state of California.
Meanwhile, Matsuda has led a number of civic education and community service initiatives at AUHSD that encourage students to research topics they care deeply about and learn the mechanisms to create positive change in their communities.
“Michael Matsuda is a 21st-century educational leader, visionary and community advocate who embodies a compassionate spirit focused on students, families and the community they live in,” said Manuel Colón, AUHSD’s chief academic officer. “His servant leadership goes beyond the classroom and is rooted in the minds and hearts of the community he serves.”
Matsuda is a founding board member of the Orange County Asian Pacific Islander Community Alliance, a member of Los Amigos of Orange County, and a trustee for the North Orange County Community College District. He also co-chairs the state Partnership for 21st Century Education and will be awarded an honorary doctorate by Chapman University, which has tapped Matsuda to deliver the keynote address at its May 20 commencement ceremony.