Today we feature Bill Schlatter, GIS analyst and former Treasurer of Great Lakes JETAA. He was a high school ALT in Hokkaido for 2 years. As someone who works in infrastructure, can you guess what he misses most from Japan? (Hint: it’s not the excessive snow shoveling.)
Where are you from in Michigan or Ohio?
I originally hail from Coshocton, Ohio, about a 90-minute drive east of Columbus and on the fringes of Appalachia. Nowadays, I live in Livonia, Michigan, near Detroit.
Where was your placement, and how long were you there?
I was a Hokkaido prefectural ALT teaching at rural high schools in and around Kuriyama from 2012-2014. I actually lived there for 6 years, though, as I went over with my wife, who got accepted on JET several years before I did.
What was your school setting like?
Varied. I had a base school I taught at twice a week and an ever-changing list of visiting schools on other days. Most of the schools had a focus of some sort – several handicapped schools, an agricultural school, and a nursing school, for example. I didn’t get much of a chance to plan lessons, but I had good JTEs, so it all worked out.
What is a memory you have in Japan that sticks out to you?
During my last year on JET, my wife and I joined a local Yosakoi dance team that operated out of my base school’s town. Neither of us were dancers, but it was a ton of fun to learn and practice with members of the community. We even got to dance in the annual Yosakoi festival in Sapporo, and our team was chosen to give an extra performance on the big stage at the end of the day!
What are you doing now, and has the JET Program helped you get there?
I’m currently a GIS analyst at SEMCOG, the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments. I do a variety of things there, including building web-based maps to display our data to the public. My first job after JET was actually working at the Consulate General of Japan in Detroit as an economic analyst, and that proved to be my bridge into doing government work.
Do you have any advice, or other support that you can offer to your fellow alumni?
Be open-minded about the opportunities that come your way. I didn’t think I had a good shot at either of my post-JET jobs, but in both cases, it turned out they were looking for skills not on the listing that I happened to possess.
How has serving as a GLJETAA officer helped you?
I’m a pretty introverted person, but I still need social contact, which proved to be a bit of a problem after moving back from Japan to a different state from all of my pre-JET friends. Serving as an officer made me stay involved long enough to really make friends in JETAA and in Michigan.
What, if anything, are you proud to have accomplished during your time as a GLJETAA officer?
To be honest, getting all of our grant-related paperwork completed and submitted each year was probably my biggest accomplishment.
What is something in Japan that you’d like to see more of where you live now?
Public transit. The rural / outer suburban areas where I lived and worked had access to transit that was more frequent, more reliable, and more navigable than what is in the major metropolitan area where I live now.
Where can we reach you for networking?
I’m on both Facebook and LinkedIn. I tend to keep my professional contacts on LinkedIn, while Facebook is for friends, family, and fellow D&D nerds.
That’s it for this month’s Alumni Spotlight. Thank you, Bill!
Alumni Spotlight is an outreach activity through the Great Lakes JET Alumni Association seeking to build stronger connections between alumni and to provide bridges for networking. If you or an alumnus you know would like to be featured in an installment of Alumni Spotlight, please email Kyle Belanger at email@example.com.