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Local teacher brings overseas educator to town

Native Japanese speaker will offer her expertise


by: REVIEW PHOTO: JILLIAN DALEY - Moe Takahashi of Japan, left, and Charlotte Stewart are co-teaching Japanese classes at Lakeridge and Lake Oswego high schools. Takahashi is here through the the Japanese Language Education Assistant Program.Lake Oswego and Lakeridge high schools will host one of four teaching assistants in the state — and one of 23 TAs in the nation — who are visiting classrooms through a program born of a discussion between President Barack Obama and Japan’s former Prime Minister Naoto Kan.

Kan and Obama said three years ago that they wanted to deepen the Japan-U.S. alliance. In 2011, the Japanese Language Education Assistant Program, or J-LEAP, bloomed from that conversation, which brings native speakers from the Land of the Rising Sun to K-12 classrooms in the land of stars, stripes and Starbucks.

Lakeridge and LOHS, which offer Japanese 1-4, are participating in J-LEAP for the first time, receiving a boost to standard curriculum via the expertise of native speaker Moe Takahashi.by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Moe Takahashi and Charlotte Stewart pose, each in a yukata, which is a light, unlined kimono.

Takahashi earned her master’s degree in teaching Japanese at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies. Before she came to town, she was teaching high-level Japanese to Chinese students trying to get into a graduate program. She also studied in the United States in college for two semesters.

“It’s been my dream to come back to the United States as a teacher,” she said.

Charlotte Stewart, the Japanese teacher at Lakeridge and LOHS, helped Takahashi realize that dream. Stewart’s own experiences inspired her to pursue a J-LEAP connection.

From 2002 to 2004, Stewart participated in Japanese Exchange and Teaching Program, which brings native English speakers to Japan to teach English.

“It was a life-changing experience for me and actually led me to become a Japanese teacher,” Stewart said. “I remember how thrilled Japanese students studying English were to speak with a native speaker and hear about my culture, and I wanted my students in Lake Oswego to be able to have the same experience.”

Takahashi, who will be co-teaching with Stewart, said she wants their students to gain greater understanding of not only the Japanese language but also her homeland’s culture.

“I also want them to realize how wonderful their own culture is because they grew up here, and they don’t realize it,” Takahashi said.

She said teachers have more technology in the United States, using computers in the classroom, which is not common in her country.

Stewart said she hopes students who get to know Takahashi will be more motivated to study Japanese in high school and beyond. It also could boost her classroom knowhow, Stewart added.

“Because of my time in JET, I had some idea of what team teaching was and knew that having a Japanese co-teacher would sharpen my skills as an educator, positively impacting my classes for years to come,” she said.

Most J-LEAP TAs stay in their post for two years.

Adding a staff member through J-LEAP won’t ding the school district’s tight budget. The program pays for the TAs’ salaries and provides housing and teaching materials stipends. J-LEAP also covers TAs’ auto and health insurance.

The groups that run J-LEAP are the Japan Foundation — an independent administrative institution that promotes international exchange and understanding between Japan and other countries — and the Laurasian Institution, a nonprofit international education group.

“This program is designed as a short-term solution to the shortage of assistance to Japanese teachers in the United States and the needs of youth adult exchange between Japan and the U.S.,” states the J-LEAP 2013-15 prospectus.




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  • 23 Apr 2014

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  • 24 Apr 2014

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