Meet Our Leading Teachers

Your Child’s Success Is Our Success

Miwako Sakabayashi, Founder

Lovingly known as Sensei Miwako (‘sensei’ means ‘teacher’ in Japanese), Miwako grew up in her native country of Japan with the Abacus. When she first put her hand to a heavenly bead at age 7, her path was set. At the age of 12, she placed third in Japan’s National Abacus Competition, and her Abacus math accomplishments as an adult garnered a prestigious position in Japan’s banking industry.

She came to the U.S. in 1992 and settled in Oregon. With her love of the Abacus and a passion for working with children and teaching, she founded the Japanese Abacus Math School, JAMS, in 2001. For Miwako, there’s no greater sense of accomplishment than seeing a student’s face light up with confidence when they discover their mental calculation abilities and succeed with their class work.

And Miwako is a hands-on person – maybe that’s why she’s so skilled with the Abacus. She’s earned degrees in calligraphy, flower arranging, tea ceremony and sewing kimonos. Beyond the classroom, she still enjoys those activities, as well as getting creative in the kitchen or preparing genuine Japanese cuisine.

Two decades of Abacus Teaching Experience
Besides opening her own school, Miwako has been working to educate others about abacus throughout the region for 20 years. Her accomplishments include:

  • Richmond Elementary School, Portland, Oregon – January 1998 to December 1999
  • Woodstock Elementary School, Portland, Oregon – Fall 1999
  • 2001 Working on Abacus pilot program for 4th graders along with Dr. Leo Richards, Director, Montana Abacus Institute and Former Professor, University of Southern California
  • Saturday Academy 2007
  • Children’s Hour Academy May 2007-June 2008
  • Village Home (Home School) Fall 2008
  • Oregon College of Art and Craft Spring 2009
  • Oregon Episcopal School Spring 2009
  • Sherwood School District – Summer 2009
  • Portland State University – 2009 to present

Mika Comeaux, Parent Coordinator & Assistant Teacher

Mika was born and raised in Japan. She came to the U.S. to attend college and has remained ever since. Throughout her college career, she volunteered tutoring other students and helped educate elementary school students about the Japanese culture. She has long understood the importance of a strong educational foundation.

Over the years, Mika has participated in volunteer activities in the community as well as public school system. Mika has also held the position of assistant instructor at the Japanese Montessori Children’s House before joining JAMS.

Mika always finds it fascinating to watch children adapt and excel with amazing skills in their own way, and looks forward to helping them to learn and grow. Her favorite part of being a key member of the JAMS team is knowing that she also learns and grows with every student at JAMS.

Mika has a lot of hobbies. She is interested in many areas and always curious and open to trying new things. Children definitely keep her surprised and meeting new people constantly gives her a fresh perspective on life.

Mai Bukres, Assistant Teacher

Mai Bukres is a third-year undergraduate student at Portland State University majoring in International Studies, International Development, along with Economics and a minor in Child/Youth and Family Studies. In the future, she hopes to apply her research with a focus on foreign policy concerning youth. She is also a full-time educator at the Japanese Abacus Math School, teaching children abacus. She grew up in a Japanese-Libyan home in Tigard, Oregon, USA and studied abroad in Japan during high school, which heavily influenced her strong international perspective in academia. And had the opportunity to be an intern for a congressman in Japan over the summer. In her free time, she enjoys playing the violin and has been classically trained since the age of 5.

Keiko Stern

Keiko was born and raised in Tokyo, Japan. Her first teaching job was after graduating from a Teachers College, where she worked at a nursery school for six years. She found childcare and teaching to be very fulfilling experiences and enjoyed watching her students grow from a young age.

After she and her husband moved to the United States in 1993, they raised their three children while she worked as a teacher in a Japanese school in Concord, California. She found teaching in a new country to be refreshing, challenging, and joyful. After moving to Oregon in 2001, she taught at several Japanese language schools and began doing childcare for disabled children. She eventually started her own Japanese preschool, which she ran for 10 years in SW Portland. Through teaching and taking care of children, she grew to appreciate the wonderful families she met and the experience of growing and learning new things every day.

At JAMS, Keiko is excited to teach in a new field, and enjoys helping her students overcome challenges, all while continuing to learn herself.

In her free time, she enjoys knitting, watching musicals, walking her dog, and cooking (she’s always searching for new recipes!).

Chieko Hawley

Chieko was born and raised in Nagoya, Japan. After graduating from university in Japan and in the United States, she taught at a foreign language institute in Japan for seven years. She went through rigorous training and taught a wide variety of classes, learning important skills as a teacher.

Now, after a move to America, Chieko is still a teacher. She has taught Japanese to children at church, volunteered at elementary schools to teach Japanese, and volunteers at events through her daughter’s baton twirling team.

The skills she learned through calligraphy and Abacus has come in handy even more than 40 years later after she first learned it. Chieko hopes to support young people who are learning these skills.

The positive energy she receives from the children she teaches inspires her to continue teaching and learn new skills each day. Chieko hopes she can assist with spreading awareness about Japanese culture by teaching skills such as calligraphy and Abacus in America.

In her free time, Chieko enjoys calligraphy, aromatherapy, and making dance costumes for her daughters.