U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Daniel E. Fernandez
U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Daniel E. Fernandez

Okinawa teachers train at Kadena

by Staff Sgt. Daniel E. Fernandez
18th Wing Public Affairs

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Okinawa School teachers from across the island converged at Kadena Air Base Jan. 30, ready to take part in what is now known as the English Language Initiative or ELI.

The initiative provides English language training for Japanese educators by U.S. partners in support of the April 2020 Japan-wide curriculum roll-out requiring students in fifth and sixth grade to receive English instruction.

The initiative started in May 2018 as a joint effort between the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, U.S. Department of State, and Department of Defense Education Activity. Thirty teachers and teacher’s assistants from all over Okinawa attended the two-day long course at Kadena Elementary School.

“This professional development training is for Japanese elementary school teachers and assistant language teachers,” said Dr. Tracy Rice, regional English language coordinator for the DoDEA Pacific region. “It focuses on interactive cooperative learning and team building activities that enhance English language acquisition skills.”
Rice, who received her doctorate in educational curriculum and instruction, facilitated the training. She created and aligned the activities to the standards and curriculum used by Japanese teachers in a way that can be easily implemented in the classroom.

“This training program has been carried out with great cooperation from the U.S. side,” said Eiichi Umeyama, from the Okinawa Liaison Office of MOFA. “[It] helps Japanese teachers who face a new challenge in teaching English as English education become[s] compulsory in all Japanese elementary schools, beginning April 2020.”
ELI is an innovative avenue to build relationships through education, thus further strengthening the already robust alliance between the U.S. and Japan.

“We should never focus on our differences and instead focus on what we have in common,” said Elena Gushiken, assistant language teacher Yamauchi Elementary School in Okinawa City, Okinawa. “The children are the future and by teaching Japanese students English, we eliminate the language barrier between them and American children which leads to an exchange of cultures.”

Dr. Rice and her students have implemented the ELI through a "Teachers Training Teachers" model. Over 100 teachers and 2000 students have been directly and indirectly impacted through this program.

“U.S. and Japanese kids can sit in a room together and not have barriers,” said Mioki Lacsamana, a Japanese English-language teacher from Hirugi Elementary School in Nago City, Okinawa. “They are the same kids with the same interests and without the language barrier they can become friends and play sports together.”

Lacsamana has already implemented Dr. Rice’s strategies learned during professional development training in cooperation with the Nago Board of Education, DoDEA and the US Consulate General, Naha.

Photo Caption:
A Kadena Elementary student, Okinawa teachers and assistant language teachers participate in activities during the English Language Initiative at Kadena Elementary School on Kadena Air Base, Japan, Jan. 30, 2020. The ELI is a joint effort between the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Department of State and Department of Defense Education Activity to foster positive relationships between Japan and United States by providing training for teachers of Okinawa.

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