Teacher Profile: Rieko Murphy’s journey to teaching Japanese at Amador


Jocelyn (Hsin-Chiao) Hsu

AV Japanese teacher Rieko Murphy teaches her students in various ways including making art work.

As a previous high school exchange student, Reiko Murphy began her journey to America alone. Murphy had a desire for introducing Japanese culture and traditions to foreigners. She saw teaching at Amador as an opportunity to express her passion. 

“I was an exchange student when I was in high school. As I started to get insight into teaching by exploring how American schools are in California, I gained confidence in developing my own teaching career,” said Murphy.

After high school, Murphy decided to come back to America for college. She wanted to find her own career by becoming a teacher after graduation. 

“It was around twenty years ago when I first taught in a Japanese-American weekend school in the city of Concord and found it was a lot of fun. A few years later, I was told that Amador Valley High School was looking for a Japanese teacher, and that was also the first year we started a Japanese program at Amador,” said Murphy.

Seeing her students develop gives her a great sense of accomplishment as a teacher. Murphy is the organizer of the AV Fall Japanese festival. She wishes to spread diversity by introducing Japanese arts and culture to students at Amador. 

“The thing I enjoy the most about teaching Japanese is meeting with students who don’t know any Japanese but eventually become fluent as they enter their third or fourth year of taking my classes. I designed my classroom to look festival-like, and we have a Japanese festival every fall, where all students at Amador are introduced to origami, calligraphy, Japanese music, and games,” said Murphy.

The Fall Japanese Festival allows all students to participate and organize the event. The profits from the sales are donated to Benioff Children’s Hospital every year. It helps kids in need in the city of Oakland, California. 

“I like all the festivals that we hold and when everyone takes part to organize them. All of our hard work pays off when we get to explore Japanese culture. Also, the money goes to charity, so it’s also a nice way to help others as well,” said Emma Walker (’25).

Many freshman and sophomore students taking the class appreciate the effort Murphy puts in. She creates a comfortable and fun learning environment.  

“She is very passionate about teaching Japanese. I enjoy seeing her explaining everything, especially when we do interactive activities in her class. It differentiates from many of the other classes because we dive really deep into the culture. The way she teaches us is really fun, ” said Veronica Pascual (‘25).

Besides making teaching a job, Murphy also makes additional time to guide her students in visiting Japan over the summer and providing more opportunities for her students.

“I love teaching. I take my students to Japan every summer for vacation. They to get to know more about high school in Japan and make friends. Even though it’s a lot of work, I enjoy doing it and introducing students further to Japanese culture,” said Murphy.