Webster Student to Teach in Japan

Carisa Crittendon will teach English to Japanese school children for the next two years

Carisa CrittendonST. LOUIS, APRIL 23, 2013 - When school children in Japan take an English language class, they undoubtedly will learn words such as "apple," "telephone," and "please." Now add to that list "Gorlok."

Webster senior Carisa Crittendon, an International Studies major with an emphasis in Asian studies, has been accepted into the highly selective Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) program by Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. She will spend the next two years teaching English in Japan.

"Being able to teach in Japan is a dream come true for me," Crittendon said. "I have been interested in Japan since I was a child, but it was the support of the professors here at Webster who really made this possible."

Crittendon, a St. Louis native, said she originally became interested in Japanese culture through the popular toys of her generation – specifically Pokémon and Tamagotchi. Through those trends, she chose to try and learn Japanese through books and web sites. When she enrolled at Webster, she immediately signed up for Japanese language courses and began studying the culture.

In her junior year, she took advantage of Webster's study abroad program and spent a semester at Kansai University in Osaka, Japan. "It was the best time of my life," she said. Then last semester, she studied at the Webster campus in Thailand. There, Webster professor Ajan Jim asked her to consider volunteering at rural elementary schools to teach children rudimentary English.

"Only then did I discover my passion for teaching," Crittendon said. "In today's world, English is becoming a lingua franca (unifying language), and learning English can open up so many opportunities for kids, and I really got interested in making it my career."

She shared her passion for teaching with her professors and applied for the program in October. Her adviser, Professor Debbie Pierce, and Japanese language Professor Kana Morishita, both wrote letters of recommendation for the JET program.

"Carisa is an amazing and dedicated student who has done incredible work during her time at Webster, and she will receive the International Distinction Award at Commencement," said Professor Pierce, the director of Webster's Center for International Education. "I know that when she is in Japan, she will do Webster proud and will soon have Japanese school children talking about the Gorlok."

Crittendon said she is excited to be going back to her "second home" and is already making plans beyond her two years in the classroom.

"After JET, I want to continue my education and get a master's degree in International Education," she said. "I hope to one day run a study abroad program or advise other students in the future and help them learn the value of international education."

For more information on the JET program, visit http://www.miami.us.emb-japan.go.jp/en/jetprogram.html. For more information on Webster's Center for International Education, visit http://www.webster.edu/cie/.