2016 J-LEAP Report: Chizuru Imase

March, 2017: Breeze Issue #113

A Free Monthly E-Newsletter for Friends of Japan & Teachers of Japanese

2016 J-LEAP Report
by Chizuru Imase

Garfield High School
Seattle, WA

Hello! My name is Chizuru Imase. I have been working as an assistant teacher for seven months at Garfield High School in Seattle, Washington. I am grateful to have this special and unique opportunity to teach in the U.S. 

Seattle is a beautiful city located in the northwestern part of the U.S. In Seattle you can enjoy a blend of urban living and nature. The city is nicknamed "the Emerald city" because of all its greenery. There is easy access to the ocean, lakes, parks, and mountains for endless outdoor activities. The city is fast growing and is also home to the headquarters of well-known international companies such as Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Starbucks. Seattle is a great city for nature lovers who want to live in a large city. The city is well-known for its wet weather, but on cold rainy days, I enjoy coffee at my local cozy cafe while preparing for lessons. 

My day at school begins with energetic morning greetings. Seeing the smiling faces of my students is a great way to start my day. Garfield high school is a public high school located in the center of Seattle that has approximately 1600 students from a broad range of backgrounds. Around 150 students are taking Japanese 1, 2, 3 & AP as a foreign language this year. In addition to the classes, we have Japanese club, Anime club, pen pal letter project, New Year card making contest, and study trips to Japan every two years.

I teach all levels with two wonderful teachers, Ms. Johnston and Ms. Antoncich. They helped me settle in this new country and become part of the local Garfield community. I always appreciate when they make time to create co-teaching lessons plans and ask my opinion despite their busy schedules. They have taught me various language teaching methods, class management strategies, and ways to build good relationships with the students. They are always helpful when I need support and advice. I feel lucky to be able to have them as my LTs. 

My LTs and I have a few teaching goals. One of our goals is to incorporate interesting and enjoyable cultural presentations in our lessons. My LT and I make cultural presentations every week. Our cultural topics include fast food in Japan, J-Pop and Enka (Japanese traditional song), Harajuku Fashion, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day and Valentine’s Day in Japan and so on. At the end of each presentation, we discuss cultural and social differences between the U.S. and Japan with the class and ask their thoughts and opinions. It is enjoyable for us to address cultural differences from different perspectives. Sharing thoughts with the students also helps me deepen my understanding of both my own culture and American culture. Studying a new language and culture greatly influenced my life in many positive ways. Therefore, I hope to encourage and help students learn the Japanese language and culture because I want them to have the chance to have such positive influences in their lives, too.

One of my goals is to incorporate more differentiated instructions in class because there are various types of students with diverse cultural backgrounds, different academic levels and students who need extra support at Garfield High School. As much as we support the students in need, we also try to design lesson plans that motivate students with a high level of mastery to keep learning. I hope to be able to assist my LTs achieve this goal. 

Outside of school, I have been a member of Washington Association of Teachers of Japanese. I have been working to organize the Japanese Speech & Skit Contests and Japanese immersion camps in Washington State, which is scheduled in the next few months. I am glad to have the opportunities to work with Japanese language teachers in the local community, the Hyogo Business and Cultural Center, and the Consulate General of Japan in Seattle for these events in the local community. In addition these events, I've attended conferences for language teachers such as ACTFL, COFLT, WATJ conference and J-LEAP follow-up training. These conferences are always helpful for me to gain more knowledge about foreign language education in the U.S. and to learn practical language teaching methods. At the J-LEAP follow-training, assistant teachers had a chance to reflect and share their experiences at their schools and receive support and encouraging advice from other teachers so we can succeed in the program. 

The J-LEAP program has not only given me a chance to grow as a teacher but also as a person. Living and working in the U.S has enriched my perspective and allowed me to build a better understanding, appreciation, and respect for other cultures as well as my own. Every day is a learning process for me.

I appreciate all the support I've received from the Japan Foundation, the Laurasian Institute, my LTs, my host family, my family in Japan and friends. Thanks to them, I've had such fulfilling and rewarding 7 months. I look forward to the time I have left with my LTs and students at Garfield High School. 


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