Q: What is your educational and research background?
ST: I received an undergraduate degree in English and American Literature while in Japan. After I graduated, I worked in Japan for nine years—first as an international sales manager and then as a wedding planner. Eventually, I decided to change my career, and I came to N.Y. and enrolled in school again. Initially, I thought of becoming an HIV counselor, but I started to T.A. for Japanese classes during my last year at college and became fascinated with teaching Japanese. It completely changed my life! After that, I lived in Canada for a while, where I completed a master's degree in educational technology at the University of British Columbia; I chose this field since I was very interested in using technology to enhance the quality of my teaching and my students' learning experience. Today, I am always seeking new online tools that improve the learning environment. Given this background, I was well prepared for the pandemic teaching platforms we all transitioned to.
Q: What is your current research focus or interest in the field of EAS?
ST: The pandemic forced educators to re-examine long-held beliefs on how to utilize virtual teaching tools in the classroom effectively. Rather than view online learning as an impediment, I tried to take advantage of the situation to design a technology-supported learning environment. For example, Zoom made it possible for me to invite native speakers from Japan into the virtual classroom to provide my students with real-time speaking practice and the opportunity for cultural exchanges. I have been researching potential benefits in language performance that derive from these interactions between students and native speakers—work to be presented at a teachers’ convention later this year.
I also had the opportunity to organize and teach courses on Japanese pop culture (especially anime and manga) at different universities. It's incredible to see so many students who enjoy anime and manga in the U.S.! My students usually know much more about recent anime and manga than I do. I'm interested in using anime and manga as a tool for presenting aspects of Japanese culture and social issues—including topics such as wars, natural disasters, religion, sexuality. Last year I was invited by AnimeNYC as a panelist to discuss censorship. More than 100 people showed up at the presentation; it was a gratifying experience.
Q: What is something you like about teaching at NYU?
ST: I love NYU students! They are friendly, motivated, and good at striking a healthy balance between study and life. They say hi when they see me in the street and send birthday-greeting emails. When I logged into Zoom on the last day of class in one of my courses last year, the students held up big signs saying "ありがとう (Thank you)." It was such a memorable moment. I learn a lot from my NYU experience with students and faculty every day. The EAS staff are always helpful, particularly whenever I have questions. I'm very grateful for the opportunity to teach at NYU.