Inside ECS: Hiromi Hollett, ECHS/EMHS
What language do you teach and what inspired you to become a foreign language teacher?
I teach Japanese 1 through 4 and Japanese AP. I moved to America about 28 years ago and wanted to serve as a go-between for the U.S. and my native country, Japan. Initially, I was thinking about working for a joint venture or an international company with my business degree. I never dreamed of becoming a teacher but this teaching job came open, so I dived in because it still served my purpose of bridging two countries. I went back to graduate school and got my teaching license while I taught. I am so glad that I took the opportunity. Since I am the only Japanese teacher in the district, I get to teach some students for 2 to 4 years and I really enjoy interacting with them and seeing their social and academic growth.
Have you traveled or lived internationally, if yes, what was your first experience?
Traveling to Hong Kong was my first international trip. Although I only knew “thank you” in Chinese, I was very bold and took public transportation to get around Hong Kong. I just used gestures and pointing to things to order food at restaurants and enjoyed watching older Chinese gracefully practice Tai chi at a park early in the morning. One thing I still remember vividly was when I looked up to the sky riding on the bus. I saw many poles jutting out from the high rise buildings with clothes swaying like flags in the sky. I learned to appreciate my country as well as the country I visited.
How do you incorporate world culture into your classroom?
The internet makes it much easier to incorporate what is happening in the target culture into my classroom.
It could be news about a natural disaster or a new Häagen-Dazs ice cream flavor only available in Japan. I try to have my students compare and contrast different aspects such as the school system, cuisine, and family structure, just to name a few between America and Japan. I have many students with Hispanic backgrounds that I often ask to share their culture as well. We are often amazed by how many cultural similarities we have as compared to the number of differences.
For the last three years, my upper-level students have been corresponding with their pen pals in Japan with hand-written letters. Also, both high schools have jointly started the Japanese Exchange Program with Yamate High School in Japan and 42 Japanese students and their teachers visited us for two weeks in 2017. They stayed with our students and shadowed their host students at school. A group of our students traveled to Japan during the summer and stayed with their host families and immersed themselves in the Japanese culture for two weeks. Through this exchange program, students from both sides learned a lot from each other and forged great friendships. Our next exchange will take place in 2020. This year our high schools are chosen as one of the 33 high schools in the U.S. to participate in the Global Exchange Program. The program just started a week ago and our students and a group of students in Tokyo will learn about each other and their culture through blog postings, photo, and video sharing as well as a gift exchange. We are very excited about the cultural exchange!
How long have you been a teacher?
I have been a teacher for 20 years.
What are you passionate about outside of school?
Almost every Saturday, I change into a kimono, the traditional Japanese attire, and attend a Japanese tea ceremony lesson. It is a choreographic ritual of preparing and serving Japanese powdered green tea called Matcha. Every movement such as cleaning the tea bowl, pouring the water into the iron pot, and whisking tea is graceful and gives me a chance to slow down from the busy everyday life. I also enjoy eating Japanese sweets which go with the bitter taste of green tea so much that I Google recipes and make them for the tea lessons to share with others.