Tuesday, July 8, 2003

Trip to Japan educates teachers

Four return with big plans

By William Croyle
Enquirer Contributor

Terri Schatzman said Tokyo is a lot like New York City - very concrete with lots of neon lights - but with one difference.

"Tokyo is very quiet and clean," she said. "I think we were the loudest people there."

Schatzman, an art teacher at Dixie Heights High School, was one of 50 teachers from seven states chosen this year to participate in the two-week Toyota International Teacher Program.

She returned Saturday with three other local teachers selected for the trip - Veronica Mitchell of Notre Dame Academy, Maureen Dugan of Covington Catholic High School, and Christy Lepkowski of Ludlow High School.

"It was most, most impressive," said Mitchell. "Everything was high-tech, and they have a tremendous dedication to the environment."

The four women, chosen from nearly 600 applicants, are required to bring their experiences into their classrooms this coming semester.

"I want my students to expand their cognizance of global technology," said Lepkowski, a biology teacher who toured the Toyota plant and a textile plant. "I'll go over the Japanese industry, population, and some things I saw - like no trash or litter on the streets."

Dugan said she tells her geometry and honors math students that one of the purposes of math is to develop problem-solving skills. She said she saw those skills throughout Japan.

"You pull into a parking garage there and an elevator moves your car to a parking spot instead of you driving around," said Dugan. "And there were very tiny apartments that had refrigerators in the floor to create space."

Mitchell, who teaches internment literature, said the respect the Japanese show teachers is overwhelming - and that they also hold Americans in high regard.

"I learned that the Japanese do not harbor any ill will against Americans for that attack (in World War II)," said Mitchell. "Having now been to Hiroshima, I can complement my teaching with that personal experience."

The women toured a couple of Japanese schools, and they saw many similarities with American schools.

"A lot of their schools are facing the same issues we are, like wanting more local control and bullying," said Dugan. "And they are worried about their schools lowering their standards. They switched from school being six days a week to five days."

Schatzman agreed.

"The schools there have the same problems and issues we do," she said. "The teachers there play more roles than they used to, like being parents and counselors. They feel like they are stretched thin."


E-mail williamcroyle@yahoo.com

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