For most of us, our next class is right around the corner. For Japan native Mihoko Tsujino, the next learning opportunity was over 5,000 miles away from home.
Tsujino is a co-teacher working with the CVHS Japanese program under the lead of teacher Emi Crow. As part of the Japanese Language Education Assistant Program (J-LEAP), Tsujino has been in the United States for the past six months, and will continue to be in the classroom until June of 2017, when she will return to Japan.
While she has only been here for the past few months so far, the experience has already been invaluable for her.
“This is the first job for me, so I want to learn to be more of a teacher,” said Tsujino. “I want to learn English.”
Tsujino had previously completed a graduate program at the Kyoto University of Foreign Language, and has a background in Japanese language education. Upon the completion of her schooling, Tsujino came across J-LEAP in an online search, and took advantage of the opportunity to come to America and learn about the language, culture, and education system.
“She saw a program about language teachers that inspired her,” said Crow. “It wasn’t just from textbooks, but one where you got to interact with students.”
J-LEAP is a program sponsored by both the Japanese and United States governments that aims to strengthen school Japanese language programs while also allowing co-teachers to hone their professional skills. The unique cultural and linguistic perspective brought by a native speaker creates a blended learning environment that students are able to thrive in.
While Tsujino has enjoyed much of her stay, she finds the most joy in interacting with students on a daily basis. The more energetic, amicable American classroom heavily contrasts the Japanese classroom Tsujino was accustomed to, but she has come to look forward to being able speak with and learn from students.
“Students here are talkable, more than Japanese students. I love to talk with the students who are taking Japanese,” she said.
Students, such as Eric Moyoung, a senior enrolled in AP Japanese, have noted the undeniably positive impact Tsujino has had on their learning experience.
“She’s a very engaging addition to this year’s Japanese class. It’s beneficial to be able to talk to an actual native speaker,” he said.
New Japanese speakers find comfort in the authenticity that Tsujino has brought to their classes.
“She has really helped us grow as Japanese speakers by giving us a deep insight on the Japanese culture and language,” said freshman Juno Hwang, a Japanese 1 student.
Crow further explained the benefits of having a native speaker in class. “Listening to a language is really helpful,” she said. ”It helps us to only speak in the target language in class. I think that helps everyone learn the language a little better.”
Tsujino will continue to be a key asset to the language department over the next few years. She has high hopes for the remainder of her time at CVHS. When asked about her aspirations in the near future, she said, “I want to spread Japanese culture to the high school.”