Willamette’s GSE grads launch teaching careers in Japan

by University Communications,

A year ago, Eva Leung didn’t know where her degree would take her.

But through the new Global Teaching Fellows program at Willamette University, Leung is one of 10 recent graduates hired to teach English language courses in Japan.

“It’s one of my dreams to explore,” says Leung MAT’12, who left for Japan March 24. “I couldn’t let this opportunity pass me by. I had to go for it.”

By being a Global Teaching Fellow, graduates of the Graduate School of Education are eligible to teach at Tokyo International University for up to four years.

Participants must be endorsed Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages and engage in a paid preparatory program in the American Studies Program at Willamette and Tokyo International University of America.

In return, they earn an annual salary comparable to the starting pay in Willamette Valley school districts, and they gain experience that will enhance their marketability for future jobs, says Heather Daniels, GSE’s admission director.

“This group is the start of something that has the potential to be an amazing aspect of Willamette as a whole,” Daniels says. “This is the group getting it started."

Evolving relationship

For nearly 50 years, Willamette University has enjoyed a strong partnership with Tokyo International University.

It began with successful exchange programs between the two schools and continued with the establishment of the American Studies Program at Willamette and TIUA. Through the program, TIU students take English language and American studies courses for a year.

Now the Willamette and TIU partnership is expanding yet again through the creation of the Global Teaching Institute. Through the program, TIU is hiring up to 30 native English-speaking instructors to teach at its School of Language Communication during the next several years.

“When the first 10 GTFs arrive, that will more than double the number of their native English speakers,” says Gunnar Gundersen, executive vice president of TIUA and director of the Global Teaching Institute. “That will have a big impact.”

Through the program and the construction of an English Plaza — complete with a seminar-sized classroom, a multi-media area and a café — Gundersen says TIU students will strengthen their leadership and English language skills.

“The idea of trying to transplant a Willamette experience at TIU was in the minds of everybody,” Gundersen says. “We want graduates who are able to become global citizens and impact the global marketplace.”

Taking a chance

When Jackson Ross MAT’11 heard of the Global Teaching Fellows program last year, he decided to embrace the unexpected opportunity.

He applied in March, interviewed for the position in April and was hired in May. He began his training with a 10-day trip to Japan, where he and the nine other teaching fellows saw where they’d live and work.

Since then, Ross has been working in the American Studies Program, gradually assuming more responsibilities teaching English language courses.

“I want to get more experiences as a teacher, and I want to see if ESL teaching is something I want to continue,” says Ross, who had lived in Japan for five years.

“With this being the first year of the program, our group has the biggest opportunity to influence what this becomes. I want to help it start out on the right foot and make sure it’s successful.”

Leung agrees, adding that she’s grateful for the nine months of on-the-job training in the ASP, which gave her ample practice teaching English to foreign students.

“I’m grateful for that experience,” Leung says. “This is such a unique program, and I feel very supported. There aren’t many other partnerships like this out there.”

Future ambitions

Becoming a Global Teaching Fellow is something undergraduates can start thinking about now, Daniels and Gundersen say.

While still in the College of Liberal Arts, students could go on an exchange program to Japan or mentor or room with an ASP student in Salem. After graduating, they could earn their teaching credentials through the Graduate School of Education and begin working with students in the American Studies Program.

By then, they’ll be prime candidates for the Global Teaching Fellows program — which would give them a guaranteed and well-paying job for two years, Daniels says. If they receive high performance reviews, they may even be asked to stay in Japan for an additional two years.

“This is an opportunity to do something totally unconventional,” she says. “It’s a detour to the end goal, and you gain marketable teaching experience in the process.”

Through the program, Gundersen says teaching fellows will be able to continually mentor one another. And since many of their students in Japan enroll in the ASP at Willamette as sophomores, he says the teaching staff here and abroad will be better equipped to monitor the students’ progress.

“It’s been so rewarding to see the incredible spirit of collaboration between Willamette, TIU and TIUA,” Gundersen says. “This is yet another example of how powerful and innovative our partnerships can be.”

Up to seven additional GSE graduates are needed to staff the Global Teaching Fellows program next year. Applications are now being taken, and training will begin this spring. To learn more about the program and desired qualifications, read the job description and contact Gunnar Gundersen at ggunders@willamette.edu.