Our guest today has a Doctorate in Education, works at Eastern Michigan University, and was a JET in Saga-ken during the 90’s. Learn how JET has influenced the course of his career, from published work with international scholars, to book reviews, to work in global strategy development.
Where are you from in Michigan or Ohio?
Where was your placement, and how long were you there?
Ogi-machi, Saga-ken, 1991-1992.
What was your school setting like?
I was primarily in Ogi Middle School. Since I was a teacher back home and the English teachers were either near retirement or brand new, I was given a lot of latitude in what I taught.
What is a memory you have in Japan that sticks out to you?
I loved biking around the brilliant green rice fields and pinching myself that I was living in a country I had known only through books. I also had very fond memories of climbing Mount Tenzan with the other ALTs and hunkering down during a typhoon.
What are you doing now that you have returned?
I returned to high school teaching but brought with me another ALT. We were married in 1992 (but divorced 15 years later). We moved to Tucson, Arizona, where I started in on a Masters then a Doctorate in Education. Along the way, I kept involved with JETAA and set up their first online site.
I was always intrigued with the schools I had come to learn so much about so when I started teaching at the university level I tried to do some work with colleagues in Japan, particularly Saga University. Later, I began to develop a deep interest in juku, sometimes called Cram Schools, which I had encountered in Saga.
Last month, my work with Korean scholars was published as part of a series on Shadow Education in Southeast Asia. My JET experience has kept my interest in Asian schools and schooling alive and that has spun off into work on other international programs at the university level and about 30 book reviews for UNESCO’s International Review of Education.
A few years ago, I became the first Senior International Officer at Eastern Michigan University. This year, I will serve as a faculty associate for global strategy development. So much of what I do trails back to my incredible time as an ALT in Japan three decades ago.
Do you have any future plans you’re working towards?
I would like to finally take some time to paint portraits in oils so they don’t look like something a competent sixth-grade student did. Careerwise, I am still trying to figure out what I want to do when I grow up.
What advice or help would you like to give to other GLJETAA alumni?
I note that those experiences you had in Japan are going to be valuable in ways you might not yet recognize. You may bore new friends to death with your stories, so look for fellow JET alums. They will understand how you may need years to process the experience. I still cannot pick up a remote control without calling it a Re-Mo-Ko or saying “Chotto matte” in meetings when things move too quickly.
What konbini food do you miss the most?
Hmmm. I still find I can inhale a box of Pocky, the real stuff, without thinking twice.
Please do reach out if you have any questions for our guest. Thank you, Michael, for sharing your story.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.