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Akiko Jones named top Japanese language teacher

Akiko Kawano Jones has dedicated her career to helping her students not only learn the Japanese language, but also appreciate its culture. Recently, Jones traveled to Florida to accept the 2013 Teacher of the Year Award in the post-secondary category from the American Association of Teachers of Japanese.

Jones was chosen to receive the award because of her “quality and innovative teaching, service to the profession and to the community, participation in professional development activities, and advocacy for your program and Japanese language education as a whole,” according to the association.

Jones, who joined BGSU in 1984, said the award has given her renewed energy in the classroom when most people her age are considering retirement. She said she is both honored and humbled to receive the recognition and acknowledged her family, friends, administrators, colleagues and students with making it possible.

Teaching is a labor of love for Jones, and it is reflected both inside and outside of the classroom. She teaches her students not just the Japanese language, but also exposes them to Japanese film, art, philosophy food, and culture because she believes language and culture are inseparable.

Jones is the founder of the Japanese Club, an official University organization that hosts events that expose members to aspects of Japanese culture. Jones regularly invites students from the Japanese Club into her home, where she prepares a traditional Japanese meal for them. Club members also have the chance to accompany Jones on a month-long trip to Japan in the summer.

She helps current students and graduates find internships and jobs in Japan and serves as a mentor to them. She also works closely with the JET program at the Consulate General’s Office in Detroit, which helps students who want to travel to Japan to teach English.

Jones has sent her students to local elementary schools to help tutor Japanese students in English and works with BGSU alumni in the U.S. and Japan every spring to make the Cherry Blossom Festival a reality. The upcoming festival will mark the 13th year of its existence.

“I’m proud of the relationship I have with my students and I love teaching, I just love teaching,” she said.

Students aren’t the only people Jones works with; she also collaborates with area education and business members. Over the years she has helped Japanese companies looking to open a business in the Bowling Green area and she helps organize the Nakama no Kai, a yearly conference that brings Japanese and American businessmen together to share ideas. The most recent conference was held Nov. 21, at the Toledo Museum of Art.

(Posted November 25, 2013 )