Personality: Avanti Kollaram Yamamoto

Spotlight on Virginia’s 2025 Teacher of the Year

6/6/2024, 6 p.m.
As the daughter of Indian immigrants, Avanti Kollaram Yamamoto didn’t always dream of becoming a teacher.

As the daughter of Indian immigrants, Avanti Kollaram Yamamoto didn’t always dream of becoming a teacher. During her third year at Virginia Commonwealth University, she decided to become an educator after meeting with a mathematics professor who encouraged her to pursue teaching as a career. This experience taught her the importance of having a great teacher who believes in a student’s potential.

Yamamoto should know about believing in your potential, as she recently was named the 2025 Virginia Teacher of the Year. The 10-year teaching veteran has taught all high school grade levels since 2016 and serves as the Key Club sponsor at Atlee High School in Hanover.

She also was named the 2025 Hanover County Public Schools Teacher of the Year earlier this year, the 2025 Atlee High School Teacher of the Year, and was a 2022 Hanover County Innovator of the Year finalist. Yamamoto has been named a Hanover Scholars Honored Educator every year since 2018.

Yamamoto’s energy and passion for teaching are apparent when she describes her teaching philosophy. She believes all students deserve to be taught by someone proficient in their course knowledge and effective teaching strategies. Her approach to teaching mathematics — from special education to advanced mathematics — is thinking and logic rather than procedure and mimicry.

In 2023, Yamamoto served as the school’s Literacy & Numeracy Action Team Leader.

She was a member of the 2023 Virginia Department of Education’s Algebra II Standards of Learning End of Course Exam New Item Review Committee.

She also participated in the Hanover County National Board Certification Cohort from 2020-2022 and the Hanover County Building Thinking Classrooms Book Study from 2022-2023.

Yamamoto aims to make math come alive for students and show them how it applies to real-life situations in her classroom. She’s determined to show students that math is not scary and help them believe they are “math people.”

Yamamoto believes that a sound support system is necessary for success. She credits her success to her parents, husband, colleagues and the Hanover Public Schools system.

She is now a candidate for the 2025 National Teacher of the Year. If she wins, she plans to advocate for more inclusive and innovative teaching methods. The winner will be announced next spring at the White House.

Meet an A+ math educator and this week’s Personality, Avanti Kollaram Yamamoto:

Latest accomplishment: 2025 Virginia Teacher of the Year

Place of birth: Gaithersburg, Md.

Where I live now: Mechanicsville.

Education: I hold a Bachelor’s in mathematics, from Virginia Commonwealth University. I am pursuing a master’s in education at James Madison University.

Family: Husband, Daisuke Yamamoto and daughter, Rina Yamamoto, age 3.

Occupation: Mathematics teacher and department leader at Atlee High School.

Reaction to the 2025 Virginia top teacher award: Shocked! There are so many incredible teachers in Virginia. I couldn’t believe they picked me! I’m just a math teacher!

How I got the big news: I interviewed with the seven other regional teachers of the year for Virginia on May 6. By the afternoon, the interview panel decided, and the governor made the announcement during the ceremony!

Why I became a teacher: Growing up, I struggled in math class, and I didn’t feel seen. I wanted to be a teacher to ensure I saw every child who walked through my classroom.

My teaching philosophy: Our role as teachers is to be a facilitator of knowledge, not an information teller. We must guide our students through understanding concepts and believe they can understand them. That is how our students will believe in themselves and their capabilities. And when they do, the sky is the limit.That is the power we have as educators, and it all starts with believing that every single child is capable.

Where I first taught: John Marshall High School.

Role of parents/guardians in the learning process: Parents are our lifeline. Their support and engagement are crucial for success, especially when a child is struggling in the classroom—whether that is academically or emotionally.

Biggest problem facing students today: The biggest problem is low self-efficacy because students simply do not believe in themselves as much anymore. Ten percent of my job is teaching content. The other 90% of my job is being a cheerleader and making students believe that they are capable.

How this problem impacts schoolwork: Low self-efficacy hinders students’ ability to learn and achieve. However, when students believe in themselves and simply tell themselves, “I can do this,” their attitude and demeanor change. Once students have the “aha” moment, they find themselves successful. Everything about them changes. They are so much more successful and enjoy mathematics.

Does technology make teaching easier or difficult: Technology used appropriately can make teaching pretty cool. The best part is when you allow students to have creative freedom, what they decide to do with technology and math is astounding.

Advice to aspiring teachers: Teaching is unlike any other profession. It is like throwing a pebble into a lake and watching how far that ripple goes.

Your impact on your students may be difficult to see today, but several years from now, even when that one student reaches out and says, “Mrs. Y, you changed everything for me. Thank you,” it is so worth it.

One way I have seen my teaching make a difference in a student’s life: This year, I had a student who, when I met them at the start of the year, the student told me, “Math is not my thing, and it takes me a long time to understand concepts.” I told the student,

“It’s OK. I’ve got you. I’m here for you.” The student has grown so much this year, and last week, the student turned in their final exam and told me that they decided to major in mathematics. I almost cried.

I would like to believe I had something to do with it, that the student’s confidence in mathematics grew so much that they found that they wanted to study it!

A good teacher is: Kind, supportive and makes sure you know that they are on your side.

How I start the day: With lots and lots of coffee!

Daily outlook: I’m excited to see what my students learn today!

The three words that best describe me: Passionate, enthusiastic and creative.

If I had 10 extra minutes in the day, I would: Take a nap!

Best late-night snack: Popcorn, jalapeno chips and soft-baked chocolate chip cookies.

The music I listen to most is: I love listening to the classical radio station. Currently, I’m listening to the Avi Avital Mandolin concertos album.

Something I love to do that most people would never imagine: I do Indian Classical dance — Bharatanatyam!

A quote that inspires me: “Keep your face always toward the sunshine, and shadows will fall behind you.” — Walt Whitman

The person who influenced me the most: My dad has influenced me the most. He came to this country from India in the 1970s with nothing but a suitcase of lentils. He earned his master’s in engineering from Tuskegee University and worked as a chicken farmer until he earned enough money to bring my mom to America. Once he graduated, he drove up and down the East Coast looking for a job. He retired as a high- level officer in cybersecurity at the Department of Defense.

He taught me that nothing is out of reach; you just have to work hard.

Book that influenced me the most: “Building Thinking Classrooms” by Peter Liljedahl. It changed my perspective on how we should teach mathematics and how to move away from procedure and mimicry into logic and reasoning.

What I’m reading now: All department leaders in Hanover County are reading “Time for Change” by Anthony Muhammad. My key takeaway thus far has been that educators in a healthy school culture believe all students can excel and that they willingly challenge and change their practices to meet that end.

Next goal: I hope to graduate with my master’s degree in December and pursue my doctorate. I’d love to do some research of my own.