Liesl Beaton

Spotlight on You: Liesl Beaton

Volunteer teaches US language, culture

published: April 30, 2014

Liesl Beaton a San Antonio, Texas, native at Camp Foster who has been dedicating her time to volunteering while stationed on Okinawa.  Married to Capt. Jose Beaton, 1st MAW Adjutant on Camp Foster, she is a mother of three with another on the way. Her love of teaching is applied not only her own children but local children as well.

Q: How long have you been on Okinawa, and what kind of volunteer work have you been doing?
A: We have lived in Okinawa for just over 3 years and are getting ready to PCS back to the states. I have loved serving at our church, Okinawa Lutheran, as a Sunday school teacher, and it was because of some former members with a heart for serving that the Big Bear English Club was established. I have been blessed to be able to fill the role of English teacher for the past two plus years.
Big Bear English Club is a group that supports Amerasian children who go to Japanese local schools. The club gives the children a chance to practice their English and learn American culture. It is made up of American volunteers, Japanese mothers and their children.

Q: What do you like the best being a volunteer?
A: The best part of volunteering for me is being given the chance to interact with people whom you might never cross paths with otherwise. The generosity of time on the part of the kids and their moms has been humbling, too. They could choose to do so many other things on a Saturday morning, and yet have been committed to this class for years.

Q: What is your motto when you teach children?
A: I strive to make things applicable and engaging for the children. I know that children in Japan are in school and classes more than American children, so I really don't want to make the class feel like more school. I have tried to make our Saturday morning classes less traditional, with fun and songs and lots of movement, so that they are more motivated to learn. I want them to enjoy coming to class as much as I do.

Q: What kind of challenges does this work present?
A: Even with a degree in elementary education, the field of ESL is a totally different ball game. It has definitely challenged me as a teacher and broadened my knowledge base, as I am continually discovering the unique aspects of trying to teach someone a different language.
It has been easy to put myself in the kids' shoes, because over the past few years I've experienced the challenge of learning even some basic Japanese. It's hard and takes dedication! That's probably why most of us don't get very far into the language of our host country, which is unfortunate.

Q: What is the best part about volunteering for the club?
A: The best part about our English class has been the friendships I have made with the kids and their moms. My experience in Japan would not have been nearly as deep and meaningful without this opportunity. It has allowed my family and I to really feel like we have connections in the country now, apart from the normal military family connections.

Q: Is there anything about your volunteer experience you’d like to share with the military community here?
A: I was lucky to have this opportunity almost dropped in my lap. You may have to search harder to find ways to be involved in the local community, but there are countless organizations, military and otherwise, who are always looking for volunteers.
Even if you only volunteer once or twice in your time here, make an effort and do it. You will come away with a deeper appreciation of the culture on your end and will have provided a valuable help to someone on their end. Serving others is what life is all about. Try it out!

For more information on Big Bear English Club, visit:

- Tetsuo Nakahara, Stripes Okinawa

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