WCSU Graduate says Konnichiwa from Japanese Classroom

Jessica Pascale
Opinion-Editorial Editor


After earning a Master of Fine Arts in Creative and Professional Writing from Western Connecticut State University, Rebecca Simas traveled to an island off the coast of Japan to share her education and experiences.

Simas interviewed with the Consulate General of Japan in their Boston office, which led to her being hired as an assistant language teacher (ALT.) This position made it possible for her to earn a fellowship from the Japan Exchange and Teaching program (JET) through the Japanese Embassy.

Currently, Simas is an ALT at a high school located in Amami Oshima, which is a southern island 250 miles from Kagoshima Prefecture. She is not only confined to this island; she is qualified to teach in all of Japan. Simas is very involved at the high school, assisting eight Japanese teachers of English, helping to coach the high school’s award-winning English debate team and providing college-bound students one-on-one writing and English speech practice support. Even though the students are applying for college in Japan, they are required to apply and interview in English. It is Simas’ job to help those students, as she is the only native English teacher on staff.

“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 to 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.”

jetSimas earned both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Professional Writing from WCSU. She also taught as an adjunct professor 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 that I would teach abroad.”

The first time Simas had the opportunity to teach was while on a spring break trip to Nicaragua with the WCSU World Languages Department’s Dr. Alba Skar-Hawkins and LETRA. She volunteered at an elementary school. The experience stayed with her and many years later, when she heard about a teaching opportunity in Japan, she jumped on it. To gain a competitive edge, she earned her Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certification online. Her hard work paid off.

“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,” said Simas. “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.”

For more information, contact the University of Office Relations at (203) 837-8486.

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