Seiko Ito (72) was born and raised in Japan, where she worked for a number of years as a nurse. Upon immigrating to the United States, she attended and obtained a degree from Purdue University. It was some time after that, that Seiko embarked on what became her life’s mission and passion – she opened the very first Kumon Math and Reading center in the state of Indiana. For those not familiar, Kumon is the “world’s largest after -school learning program.” Its story began with a parent’s love and determination to help his eight-year old son. What Toru Kumon, a parent and math teacher in Japan, started in 1954 now operates in 47 countries and regions on 6 continents.
For the past 24 years, Seiko has taught and touched the lives of literally thousands of Indianapolis students and their parents, who take them to her center in Nora Plaza twice a week after school. It was there that Hoosiers Against Common Core co-founder, Erin Tuttle, and I first met her. It was there that we, and countless other parents, began to see the stark difference between what our children were capable of learning (using the Kumon method) versus what was being expected of them at school with the Common Core curriculum. We had our eyes wide opened! For that, we will be forever grateful.
I can still remember the first time we met Seiko when we dragged our children to the Kumon center after school. She greeted us with her big smile and gave each child a short test. When she showed us the results twenty minutes later, we were shocked – even our older children, who had received As in math, made a startling number of errors in basic arithmetic! We signed our children up and quickly learned the key to Seiko and Kumon’s success – fifteen to twenty minutes of practice worksheets a night makes perfect. It’s not complicated. It’s actually quite simple. It works.
Were someone to survey those students who graduate from Indianapolis High Schools having obtained the highest level of mathematic achievement possible, what they would likely find is that a number of them had been students of Seiko Ito’s. As a true master teacher, she was not only responsible for bringing struggling students up to the top of their class, but she was also responsible enabling excellent students to soar. I have no doubt that somewhere in the world, someday, a great discovery or invention will be made by a scientist, engineer, or mathematician whose success can be traced back to Seiko’s Ito’s loving dedication and to her Nora Kumon center.
(Seiko will be sadly missed, but not forgotten. Her legacy will live on, as her Kumon Center gets a new home in October, a move which was already in the works before her illness, in Greenbriar at 1260 West 86th Street.)