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University College Offers Global Education Through Japanese Teachers Program

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University of Denver

DU one of few institutions worldwide approved by Japanese Ministry of Education

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Japanese Teachers Program

In the late ’70s and early ’80s, Peter Warren — then dean of DU’s University College — had a vision for global education. The idea, which he called “Understanding America,” would be an outreach of the University to other countries. Today, that vision flourishes through the Japanese Teachers Program, a joint collaboration between University College and the Japanese Ministry of Education.

For more than 20 years, a group of 12 to 15 Japanese junior and high school teachers has traveled to Denver to spend eight weeks on DU’s campus improving their English skills. University College is just one of a handful of institutions around the world approved by Japan’s Ministry of Education to offer the training to its teachers. The partnership came about through DU’s sister city relationship with Yamagata, which has helped facilitate and promote the Japanese Teachers Program.

Getting to the United States, let alone Denver, is no easy task. Teachers must be nominated by their principal or supervisor and, in some cases, pay their own way. Add to that the fact that some leave their families behind for eight weeks. The program can also disrupt the school year, meaning substitute teachers must be brought in to teach students while teachers are out. After arriving in Denver, teachers spend the first two weeks living on campus and are then placed with a local family for the remainder of their stay.

As part of the program — which takes place during the summer — teachers spend eight hours each day, five days per week, learning techniques and strategies to improve their teaching skills which, in turn, helps improve their English and that of their students as well.

“The University of Denver has a far greater reach globally and in our community than many people realize,” says Michelle Kruse-Crocker, PhD, director of research, writing and academic projects at University College. “This boutique program is one example of how strongly University College has been and remains dedicated to adult education locally and internationally.”

Kruse-Crocker adds that the Japanese teachers arrive with a low-level fluency of English, which is attributed to Japan’s mandatory teaching of English in elementary school. And according to Japan Today, the demand for students and teachers to improve their English skills is growing, especially with the country hosting the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

“This is a big turning point for Japan and the Japanese people, because English is a very international language. We are very motivated to do this program,” says Kazumi Ito, who is from Toyama, Japan, and teaches junior high school. She left her two daughters and husband to take part in DU’s program. “As an English teacher, our main goal is to enhance Japanese students’ communication skills in English. I want to learn the strategies that will enhance their writing and speaking skills.”

While DU’s program is helping Japanese teachers do just that, it’s also exposing them to new cultures and providing them with experiential learning opportunities.

In addition to the classroom setting at DU, teachers visit local high schools, colleges, universities and English as a Second Language programs, as well as participate in community interactive learning. On weekends, some of them travel to other cities, such as New York and Las Vegas, to get a taste of American culture. The process benefits both sides. Not only do the Japanese teachers learn from their DU instructors, but those instructors learn more about them and the Japanese culture.

“The lack of speaking English in Japan is a problem, and I want to share the importance of speaking English with my students,” says Hideki Kikuchi, who came to Denver from Ehime, Japan, and leaves behind a son, daughter and wife. “Through learning English, I have to care about it and think about its importance to the Japanese culture.”

University College has offered adult education since as early as 1936. Through the college, working adults can pursue a fully accredited educational experience via classes online, on campus or in a convenient combination of both.