Published: Aug. 2, 2012

What are the challenges and opportunities facing Japan today? How do Japanese and the world perceive Japan in the context of two "lost decades" and the "triple tragedies" of March 2011?  Why do these questions matter to American educators and students? From July 8-13, 20 secondary teachers considered these questions and more through a residential professional development institute on the CU campus.

The five-day program, conducted by the Program for Teaching East Asia at CU Boulder's Center for Asian Studies, brought teachers from around the country together with experts on contemporary Japan to consider social, economic, political, and cultural dimensions of "Re-imagining Japan" in the 21st century. Course instructors included CU faculty members Marcia Yonemoto, History, and Laurel Rodd, Asian Languages and Civilizations, as well as experts from other institutions, including William Tsutsui, Southern Methodist University; Stephen Snyder and Linda White, Middlebury College; Sheila Smith, Council on Foreign Relations; Lucien Ellington, University of Tennessee-Chattanooga; Kathleen Krauth, American School in Japan; Melanie King, Seattle Central Community College; and David Janes, US-Japan Foundation. The institute was directed by Lynn Parisi, TEA director, as part of TEA's National Consortium for Teaching about Asia program, now in its 14th year. Additional staff members at TEA were Catherine Ishida and Jessica Moy.

Teachers attending the course were selected through a competitive national application process. They represented 14 states, from Massachusetts to Washington. Bob Pannozzo, a world history teacher from Virginia, was attending his seventh TEA summer institute in 13 years. "I believe that lifelong learning is crucial to teachers--we need to constantly enrich ourselves as the amount of knowledge expands. I come back to TEA because I think it is unique in coupling content knowledge with pedogogy, resources, and an interdisiciplinary approach to teaching and learning."

Lori Snyder, a high school teacher from Massachusetts, is also a return participant:  this is her fourth summer engaged with a TEA program. Commenting on her continuing participation in these courses, Lori said, "This year's program, like my previous experiences, has been comprised of a perfect balance of current East Asian scholarship;  provocative discussions among the presenters, TEA outreach specialists, and attending teachers; and great resources and support.  Our institute assignment is a curriculum profile in which we outline our plans for changing our own instruction. It is such a useful exercise, helping me organize and plan to introduce new TEA-influenced curriculum to my students each fall."

While Lori and Bob are among returning teachers, the majority of the 20 participants were new to the program this year; many are new to summer enrichment programs such as TEA offers. Rebecca Hong, who teaches in San Francisco, noted that the institute provided wonderful content, but also, "a great model for me as a teacher. . . . How will I change my teaching? To be honest . . . I had very little about Japan in any of my courses. Japan showed up at WWII and as an example of 'global economic growth.' The institute has helped me imagine ways I will revise my teaching in all my classes."

Teachers receive recertification hours for completing the institute and may also opt for graduate credit through CU Continuing Education. As part of their responsibilities as participants in this program, teachers return home to teach about Japan as part of their courses in world history, world literature, global studies, geography, Asian studies, and art. They also share their experience and resources with other educators back home. Some of this year's participants have ambitious plans to develop new units or elective courses on Japan. One teacher is designing a six-week orientation for students in his school, who will then take part in an exchange program in Japan this winter. Another wants to completely revise her unit on Japanese art. For Takako Cullison, a Japanese language teacher from Virginia, the institute has provided her with ideas and resources to meet the challenge of teaching contemporary culture through language instruction.

Funding for TEA's annual summer institutes for teachers is provided through a generous grant from the Freeman Foundation. Each year's topic is determined during fall semester, and nationwide announcements of the opportunity go out in January. TEA receives approximately 60-100 applications each year, depending on the topic, making the program highly competitive. To learn more about TEA grant-funded programs on Japan, China, and Korea, visit the TEA website. For 2013, TEA has received additional funding from the US Department of Education Fulbright Hays Program to conduct a four-week institute for high school teachers in Japan, in addition to the annual institute here on campus.