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The City Journals

Japanese Students, Teachers Learn From South Jordan Students

Sep 14, 2015 03:07PM ● By Bryan Scott

Elk Meadows Elementary is hosting Japanese college students and middle school teachers learning about education in America. Here, Shingo Yamashita and Naoto Kobayashi are teaching origami to a first-grade class at Elk Meadows Elementary. Photo courtesy of Aaron Ichimura

By Julie Slama

Elk Meadows Elementary students are learning from Japanese college students and middle school teachers, who are visiting the school to learn about education in America.

Through the Homestay Company, 30 Japanese teachers in the Japanese Teacher Assistance Program came to the Jordan School District and spent about two weeks learning about American schools, including Elk Meadows Elementary and Welby Elementary. The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs pays for the program.

At Elk Meadows, the visiting teachers helped the school teachers from July 27 through Aug. 9 in first through fourth grades, as well as in sixth grade.

“They’d observe, tutor students one-on-one about the class lesson, read with them, work in small groups and do whatever the teacher needed help with,” Principal Aaron Ichimura said. “Then, they taught mini-lessons on Japanese culture.”

Homestay associate director Rebecca Whatley said that many times Japanese teachers will teach origami, hold a tea ceremony and wear kimonos or teach students Japanese games.

“It’s usually a great experience for the students and for American teachers; they appreciate the extra help in the classroom,” she said. “The Japanese teachers are teachers so they don’t have to tell them how to do something because they already know. And the teachers are staying in homes, so they are learning our culture and practicing English.”

In addition to helping in the classroom, the teachers also attended teaching seminars about American culture, government and education. Through these and conversations, Ichimura said Japanese teachers also learned about classroom management, curriculum, teachers’ performance evaluation and salary, student testing, bullying issues and the Leader in Me student leadership program. 

“We teach how every student can be a leader, while they teach there is one leader and good followers, so we are finding out about our educational and cultural differences,” he said, adding that 20 years ago when he lived in Japan, he saw some of the differences and connections between the two educational systems. 

He hopes that their visit will bring collaboration so the teachers can work together in sharing instructional ideas.

Following the teacher visit, college students will volunteer at Elk Meadows and stay with families.

“They’ll help wherever classroom teachers need the help and learn and have the opportunity to experience a different culture,” Whatley said.

Whatley said the experience of bringing in Japanese visitors is good for Utah students.

“It’s good to meet people of different cultures and see the world firsthand from someone in another country. It opens our world, our thinking and our learning,” she said.

 Whatley said families who are interested in hosting an international student should contact their website,