LTS student George Minchillo submitted this report on LTS alumni currently teaching at Tokyo International University. George is there now serving as an intern and will graduate from University of Oregon at the end of this term.
Please Give us a Brief Overview of Tokyo International University
Tokyo International University is a Japanese university in the greater Tokyo area. Although the Global Teaching Institute (the university’s English language program and faculty) has only been around for close to 5 years, you wouldn’t be able to tell from its staff of about 50 instructors and the wide variety of activities and events that it sponsors for the university and surrounding community!
One of the biggest and most important missions of the GTI is cultural globalization and international cooperation, which is evidenced by the E-Track program (English Track: classes are taught primarily in English with some Japanese as a Second Language courses) comprised of students from many different countries who have come to Japan seeking a degree in Business, Economics, or English communication. The other program the GTI offers is the J-Track (Japanese Track: mostly Japanese students earning a Japanese degree) and this is comprised of the required English courses that all students at the university are required to take.
Six LTS alumni are currently members of the TIU faculty: Becky Lawrence, Ryan Felix, Annelise Marshall, Brandon Bigelow, Kodiak Atwood, and LeeAnn Genovese.
What classes do you teach at TIU?
Becky: I teach four classes in the Global Teaching Institute. Three are core classes for J-Track students learning English. For these core classes, I teach Sections 3 and 4, which are pretty beginner levels (the levels go from 1-28). I teach English Comprehension (Reading) to both Sections 3 and 4, and Basic Writing to Section 4. The other class that I teach is Advanced Reading and Writing, and I teach the highest level of this particular class, which is an elective for J-Track students who are mostly juniors and seniors. I really enjoy all of my classes because they each present unique challenges. I like that I get to experience teaching beginner students and advanced students at the same time. It makes me more creative, and I regularly use techniques and activities that I learned in LTS!
Ryan: I’ve been at TIU for four years now! Each year I’m assigned different classes to teach; this year I have reading and writing classes with Japanese students. I’ve also been teaching public speaking for the last three years in a separate program for international students studying business or international relations. At first, I was nervous about teaching it, having little public speaking experience myself, but I’ve learned so much!
Brandon: I graduated from the LTS program in 2013, and have been at TIU since September 2016. I teach English Comprehension and Basic Writing for freshmen Japanese students. I also teach Academic Composition for international students from countries including Vietnam, Uzbekistan, and Indonesia.
Kodiak: I’m currently teaching two listening classes and one speaking class to Japanese freshmen. The Japanese freshmen are really fun to work with and I have a lot of room to experiment and try new things out in the classroom. I’m currently implementing a gamified curriculum where all of the students are characters in a role-playing game and that’s going really well! I also teach an analytical reading and critical thinking course to international students. The international students are all advanced and occasionally native speakers, which is a welcome challenge and change of pace. We are able to cover really interesting topics and discuss complicated issues in class that I normally wouldn’t be able to do.Annelise: This year I’m teaching first year listening and speaking classes and a composition class focused on research writing.
George: I’m here as an intern, so I’m not regularly participating at the front of a classroom. However, there will be weekly opportunities for me to run a variety of workshops based on topics, skills, or functions that interest me (and hopefully interest the students). I also get to participate in a series of workshops for local Honda employees who are coming to the university for TOEIC training.
Which committee are you a part of?
Becky: All faculty are part of a specific committee that works to provide students to GTI faculty and students and make the GTI and TIU the best university it can be. I’m the SLI (Student Leadership Internship) Coordinator, which means that I work closely with J-Track and E-Track students who work part-time in the English Plaza. As Faculty Advisor, I’m responsible for ensuring that they have the support and training that they need to make the English Plaza a welcoming and educational place for all TIU students who want to come practice their English.
Ryan: I’m part of a committee that’s responsible for gathering and creating materials that teachers can use in their lessons.
LeeLee: Kodiak and I started our coordinator role: International Education Team. We started this role based on our observation that there is a lack of support for students interested in going abroad not related to the ASP (American Studies Program). The ASP is the largest study abroad program we have through TIU, where we send 120-130 students to Willamette University in Oregon for 10 months. ASP students have a lot of support, but other study abroad students are left to figure life out on their own. So, we decided to start doing what we could to help them. We do things like pre- and post-study abroad orientations, we advise and help students through the process of finding programs, we have even interviewed applicants to go abroad, and kept up communications with students as they were studying abroad. We have held multiple study abroad fairs in conjunction with the IEO (International Exchange Office). We discovered, encouraged, motivated and mentored international students (E-Track) currently at TIU to give cultural and educational presentations about their home countries in our plaza!
Kodiak: I am one of the International Education Coordinators. We are responsible for giving study abroad students the resources they need to be successful, creating opportunities for students to experience different cultures, and promoting internationalism around campus. We have been responsible from organizing the annual freshman trip to Oregon each year and give workshops and lessons related to study abroad.
Brandon: My committee focus is with the English Plaza Library, where I help maintain over 2,500 English books and continually add new and diverse options.
George: As the intern, you get to participate in all of the committees! I have a weekly rotation throughout all of the GTI committees that allows me to familiarize myself with their roles and duties, as well as help out with any of their current projects. At first it can be a bit overwhelming, but it’s also a unique opportunity and very insightful to see how the entire program comes together as a whole through these committees.
What else do you do at TIU?
Becky: In addition to teaching, all faculty have to participate in either English Lounge, which is conversation time with students, or Academic Advising, which is helping with homework and essays. I chose to do English Lounge because I love talking with students every day. It’s awesome watching them blossom and try out new vocabulary and grammar as they talk about subjects they’re interested in.
Brandon: Additionally, I have the opportunity to chat with students on comfy couches about less formal, relaxing topics during English Lounge time.
Annelise: I also supervise the English-Speaking Society, a student-led club concentrated on using English for discussion and formal presentations.
George: I also get to participate in English Lounge and Academic Advising, which is pretty similar to the Conversation Partner program at UO. This has probably been my most favorite part of being at TIU, just because the students are fun to hang out with. At first it’s a little bit intimidating and it can be difficult to think of what to say, but then you realize that most of the students just want the opportunity to learn more about people from other countries and it becomes a very relaxing, fun experience.
Anything else you would like to share about TIU?
Becky: I really love working at TIU for many reasons. I love the wide range of students that I get to teach. I also love the working environment. All of the faculty are friendly and supportive. It’s nice to come to work and enjoy the people I am working with. It’s definitely like a family! We do things outside of work together, which is really nice when you’re living in a foreign country. It’s also nice to have a co-teacher that shares my same students, because we can plan our classes together and lean on each other for support. Not really TIU related, but I also really enjoy the Japanese semester system, because we have lots of vacation time. I’m looking forward to exploring South Korea, China, Thailand, and Taiwan in the upcoming months! Finally, I really love that I have a network of LTS alumni here at TIU. It feels like a little piece of home even though I’m thousands of miles away!
Ryan: Teaching in Japan and at TIU has been an invaluable experience. I’m learning another language and culture—making friends and participating in local events has been personally very fulfilling. I’m also getting a better sense of what it means to be a professional in this field. Being a member of the Japanese Association for Language Teaching gives me access to talks and literature, as well as my own professional development opportunities. A great big thank you to LTS professors, and our great leader, Keli, who prepared us well to be in the field. It’s working!!
Annelise: I love that at TIU I get to work with both Japanese students and international students from all over the world!
Brandon: TIU is incredibly welcoming. There is abundant respect and consideration for both the students and instructors. Being a part of the TIU community has been a true privilege.
Kodiak: I really enjoy working here! My coworkers and students are great, the class sizes are small, and I am able to try new and interesting things out in the classroom!
George: One of the best things about TIU is that the working environment is very low stress. In my previous experiences studying Japanese and learning about Japanese culture, I had heard that the working environment in Japan is often one of high stress and long work hours. While each member of the GTI team is certainly busy, and may occasionally need to work a few additional hours, there is no sense of stress and everyone really seems to enjoy their time here. I really hope that I can become part of the team myself one day!