WCSU graduate says Konnichiwa from Japanese classroom
Fellowship offered unique opportunity to teach English
DANBURY, CONN. — After graduating with a Master of Fine Arts in Creative and Professional Writing from Western Connecticut State University, Rebecca Simas traveled across the globe to share her experience and education on a tiny island off Japan.
Simas earned a fellowship from the Japan Exchange and Teaching program (JET) through the Japanese Embassy, which required an interview with the Consulate General of Japan’s office in Boston before being hired as an assistant language teacher (ALT).
Currently, Simas is an ALT at a high school in Amami Oshima, a southern island 250 miles from Kagoshima Prefecture – and the rest of Japan. She team teaches with eight Japanese teachers of English, assists with the school’s award-winning English debate team and provides one-on-one writing and English speech practice support for students applying to college in Japan, where they are required to apply and interview in English. Simas is the only native English speaker at the school.
“I plan all of my own lessons and try to get as involved as I can with helping to improve the English ability of my students, and make them less afraid and more excited about learning a foreign language,” Simas said. “That’s something that Western taught me – you get out what you put into your experiences. I am making the most of my experience on my island and seizing every opportunity that I can.”
Simas earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees, both in writing, from WCSU, and taught as an adjunct instructor for two years.
“All of my teaching experience happened within WCSU’s writing department,” said Simas, who taught as a Graduate Assistant while working on her MFA in writing. “I fell in love with teaching once I had my own classroom, but I never imagined I would teach abroad.”
It was during a spring break trip to Nicaragua with the WCSU World Languages Department’s Dr. Alba Skar-Hawkins and LETRA that Simas volunteered at an elementary school. The experience stayed with her and several years later, when she heard about a teaching opportunity in Japan, Simas earned her Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certification online to gain a competitive edge – and it worked.
“I wouldn’t be teaching if it weren’t for Western and the incredible professors and friends I met there. It was my second home from 2006 to 2014,” Simas said. “I will be forever grateful for all the doors that opened for me because of the opportunities and experiences I had at Western.
“During my intro lessons to my new classes in September, I had my Japanese students chant “WC-SU!” with me.”
Western Connecticut State University offers outstanding faculty in a range of quality academic programs. Our diverse university community provides students an enriching and supportive environment that takes advantage of the unique cultural offerings of Western Connecticut and New York. Our vision: To be an affordable public university with the characteristics of New England’s best small private universities.