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Take Five with Susumu Uchiyama: Commandant at Air Force Academy High School

09 November 2023

Lt. Col. Uchiyama's experience as a veteran impacts his career as an educator in many ways.

Photo of Susumu Uchiyama

Take Five is a series that highlights some of the many members of the CPS community who are going above and beyond for our schools. 

In honor of Veterans Day tomorrow, we are pleased to introduce you to Susumu Uchiyama, a retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel and the current Commandant at Air Force Academy High School.

Susumu originally came to the United States as an exchange student from Japan. After graduating from Southeast Missouri State University with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, he moved to Chicago for graduate school. While Susumu originally wanted to pursue a doctorate degree in organic chemistry, he changed his path after meeting a U.S. Army recruiter. Susumu ended up serving in the Army for 10 years and the Air Force for 20 years, which included time in Georgia, North Dakota, South Carolina, Panama, Guam, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

After retiring from active duty, Susumu knew he wanted to return to Chicago because he loved the city so much. He had also always been interested in education, so earlier this year, when he heard about the Commandant position at Air Force Academy, he knew it was a perfect fit.

What is most rewarding about your work?

Being able to have a positive impact on students’ lives, and helping them to envision their futures. I really believe in public education and the CPS mission of providing all students with a high-quality education, no matter their background or resources.

What is one important lesson you learned from serving in the military?

When I was in officer candidate school, we learned 11 principles of leadership. The sixth principle is to look after other people’s well-being, which has always stuck with me and shaped the way I act. What makes me happy is to make other people happy. 

How does your experience in the military impact your approach as an educator?

I learned many skills and values during my time in the military that I try to impart onto my students, especially leadership, integrity, and the courage to speak up and do the right thing.

What do you like to do outside of work?

I’ve liked running since I was in middle school. It is really helpful if I’m ever stressed out or I need to try and cheer myself up.

What advice would you like to give your younger self?

Explore who you are, keep an open mind, and go beyond your comfort zone.

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