high school teacher
Studying Japanese at UT twenty years ago was a great experience for me. I’d had the chance to visit Japan on a cultural study tour before starting my Japanese language studies, so I was fascinated by the culture and knew that knowing some of the language would be useful in better understanding Japan. I was very motivated, but frankly, not that talented in picking up speaking and listening skills. Nonetheless, thanks to patient instructors and my motivation to learn about the culture, I persevered and finished three years of Japanese. By that time, I had met and married my wife Betsy who also studied Japanese at UT. I was earning my Master’s degree in Social Studies Education and Betsy was an Asian Studies major and together we thought if would be awesome to someday move to Japan and experience the culture first hand.
The opportunity came several years later. By that time, we had two young daughters, ages four and half and one and a half. In the spring of 1992 I sent off numerous resumes and cover letters to Japanese universities. Fortunately, I was “in the right place at the right time” to get hired as an EFL instructor by Kanazawa Institute of Technology in Ishikawa Prefecture. Although Kanazawa was on the cold and rainy west coast of Honshu, it was a great experience for our family. Our dream of experiencing Japanese culture and practicing and improving our Japanese skills was realized. We made friends in our apartment building, the Japanese kindergarten, my work, our church, and were able to learn much about Japan through various experiences. We stayed there for two years and returned in time for my oldest daughter to begin first grade.
Fortunately, Westwood High School in Round Rock I.S.D. was looking for a World History teacher at that time, so I was able to get a job that matched my interests back in Austin. In addition, for the next seven years, I also taught Japanese language at the high school. Although the program was phased out, I was able to share my excitement about Japan and the Japanese language to over one hundred high school students. It’s been very gratifying to know that several students continued their Japanese studies at college and a few even have lived in Japan.
After concentrating on teaching World History for the next several years, I missed sharing my love of Japan; so in the 2004-2005 School Year, I helped launch Westwood’s “Japanese Culture Club.” The club is sponsored by another teacher now, but it still meets weekly to talk about both traditional and contemporary Japanese culture. They frequently watch anime together and go out to Japanese restaurants here in Austin.
Also, in June of 2005, my wife and I took thirteen high school students to Japan on a two-week study tour. The tour was part of The Laurasian Institution’s “New Perspectives: Japan” (NP:J) Program. It included three days of sightseeing in Tokyo and Kyoto as well as a week-long home-stay and school visit. Many of the students who went, including my oldest daughter now eighteen, had a fabulous time and they still keep in contact with the friends they made there.
Looking back at these various experiences, it’s clear to me that studying Japanese at UT has opened up many interesting doors to me and my family. I encourage ya’ll to continue studying the language and culture of Japan. Ganbatte ne.