FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 3, 2009
Contact: K.E. Schwab
SRU's Yamamoto joins Pa. Department of Education focus group
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Junko Yamamoto, an assistant professor of secondary education/foundations of education at Slippery Rock University, will bring a very personal perspective to her appointment as a new member of the Pennsylvania Department of Education's English Language Learner Group.
The statewide focus group is designed to examine competencies for today's educators.
"We certainly think Junko will be a valuable asset to the focus group," said Jay Hertzog, dean of SRU's College of Education. "Her background, teaching experience and interest in helping students succeed, especially those who are not native English speakers, will certainly bring a diverse and important aspect to the group's discussions and deliberations."
"My personal experience of growing up in Japan and then being an exchange student in a suburb of Chicago, leads me to believe all educators need to have the disposition to teach diverse learners, including non-native speakers of English," Yamamoto said.
She said, "As a junior in high school, an English teacher asked the class to write a book report on Nathaniel Hawthorne's 'The Scarlet Letter.' Not only was my reading competency in English far below the level necessary, I had huge cultural gaps. The novel took place in the Puritan society of early-America: I grew up in a predominately Buddhist country studying Japanese history instead of American history."
"The teacher did not excuse me from the assignment. Instead, he wrote me a hall pass to watch the dramatization of the novel at the audiovisual center. I'm sure the quality of my work was not as high as that of other students in the class, but with his help, I completed the assignment," she said.
Yamamoto, who joined SRU in 2005, said the incident was not isolated and points to another memory that helped shape her teaching philosophy and what she hopes she can convey to fellow members of the statewide learning group. "Another English teacher I had required the class to write a research paper. Just like the first teacher, she expected me to work on the assignment as native speakers did. I read, wrote and created a bibliography. My need for added assistance created extra work for my teacher, but she tirelessly provided feedback until my paper was as good as a native speaker's," she said.
"Last summer, I attended the Pennsylvania Department of Education's ELL Conference. One of the keynote speakers was Pedro Cortez, Pennsylvania's secretary of state. He shared his childhood memory of being a non-native speaker and going to school in the United States. When he said teachers who believe in their students and set high expectations make immeasurable impact on their students, I immediately thought of the English teachers I had had in Chicago," Yamamoto said.
"If there is one thing my own teacher candidates take from my class at SRU, I'd like it to be the disposition to teach all students, regardless of barriers. I look forward to sharing this belief with other educators in Pennsylvania as part of the ELL Focus Group," she said.
Yamamoto's first meeting with the group is scheduled for February in Harrisburg.
Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.