Joan K. Mendel ES (formerly Yokota East ES) History

Opened: April 1973

Joan K. Mendel Elementary School has students in grades Sure Start, PSCD (Preschool Services for Children with Disabilities) to Grade 5 with an enrollment of approximately 500 students.

The staff includes over sixty well-trained professionals teaching academics, special education and such specialties as art, music, physical education, ESL (English as a Second Language), Gifted education and Japanese culture.

A school nurse, two counselors, a trained school psychologist, and two speech pathologists are also available to attend to student needs. Joan K. Mendel Elementary School has developed a learning environment that rivals and exceeds the standards set by most U.S. schools.

Joan K Mendel (1931-2006) was an exceptional presence in the Yokota educational community for 34 years. When she wasn’t teaching, she could be found rescuing stray animals and surrounding herself with the loving faces of the children of Aiji-no-Ie Orphanage. In 1973 when Yokota East Elementary school opened, Ms. Mendel was one of the first teachers on staff at the school. She wrote about the school,

Built on an ammunition dump, Yokota East Elementary School opened its doors April 1973, to let in the mud, the empty bullet casings and two combination classes – a first/second grade and a third/fourth grade. Not a blade of grass had poked their heads through the thick, red-brown mud. Mothers spend all day sweeping dirt out of the new garden apartments. The Air Police spent all day investigating bullet casings, brought in to the teachers in big garbage bags every day.

There were no towers. Barbed wire surrounded everything. The Media Center was wall-to-wall furniture, brought over from schools that were closing. The two classrooms were jammed- not even enough room to stand to salute the flag! But all survived the mini opening and the summer of 1973 brought trees, grass, and big, empty classrooms- East was ready to roll!

Although she never had children of her own, she served as a parent, mentor, and friend to hundreds of children here in Japan. Ms. Mendel volunteered her time at the Aiji-no-Ie Orphanage in Tokyo. She handled collections of clothing, food, and supplies. Ms. Mendel also started a sponsorship program between Yokota East Elementary and the orphanage which continues today.

She was a compassionate person, an exceptional teacher, and a wonderful friend. Ms. Mendel made such an impact on her fellow colleagues and community that it only seemed right to dedicate the school in her name and honor her legacy.

The school mascot is the Panda and the school colors are red and black.

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