Oyama Elementary School


Oyama Elementary School is named for Dr. Henry "Hank" Oyama.

His mother was of Japanese heritage, but was raised in Mexico where she grew up with the Mexican culture and Spanish Language.  When her father died, the family moved from Nogales, Arizona to Tucson, Arizona.  They settled in what is now called Barrio Historico.

Hank attended Davis Elementary and Safford Junior High Schools.

When Hank was 15 years old the Japanese Air Force bombed Pearl Harbor.  This act brought the United States into World War II. During the war Japanese-Americans were put in internment camps by the U.S. government.  The Oyamas were one family among the 120,000 Japanese Americans sent to relocation centers until the end of the war.

When the Oyamas were released they moved to Excelsior Springs, MO and then to Kansas City, Missouri. Hank was then inducted into the U.S. Army.  He was assigned to Panama Canal Zone because his primary language was Spanish.

He returned to civilian life and Tucson in 1947.  He earned both a Bachelors and Masters Degree in Education at the University of Arizona.  He worked evenings with Tucson Newspapers, Inc. and in 1952 started teaching at Safford Junior High School.

In 1955, Hank was selected to be part of the original faculty at the new Pueblo High School.  While at Pueblo, Hank was part of a team that planned and executed a curriculum for native Spanish speakers to improve their abilities in both Spanish and English.  Their efforts contributed to Pueblo's national recognition by Parade Magazine as a Pacemaker School.

Because of their efforts at Pueblo, and their study and report on Mexican-American students' education in the southwest, Tucson hosted a national symposium on the subject in 1966. It was attended by educators and policy makers throughout the southwest, and caught the attention of two U.S. Senators.  They in turn introduced legislation creating funding for Bilingual Education -- Title VII.

Hank left Pueblo High School in 1970, but continued his commitment to education. He became Pima Community College's director of Bilingual and International Studies and then became Associate Dean of that program in 1978.  He retired from the Air Force in 1987 as a Lieutenant Colonel and in 1989 was appointed vice-president for Multi-Disciplinary Education and Services at Pima Community College. He retired as Vice-President Emeritus after 18 years in TUSD and 22 years at Pima Community College.

Henry "Hank" Oyama Elementary School was dedicated on Saturday, March 8, 2003.