JET Program Experience


     Japan Exchange and Teaching program (JET) is a government funded program that brings qualified individuals to Japan for the purpose of increasing internationalization and cross cultural understanding. Click here to view the official JET website. 


The Job


Posing with the newly graduated students.

My role was as an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) in two public junior high schools and five elementary schools in Akita, Japan.

What does it mean to be an ALT? In most cases, it means being the only source of international  exposure students have. It also means being a resource for all Japanese Teachers of English (JTE). Teachers came to me to request class activities, worksheets, and clarification on particular grammar points they didn’t understand.

It also meant learning how to work with all the JTEs in the classroom and adapting to their teaching style to best meet their needs. Often, teachers in Japan wear many hats, and don’t have time to even prepare a lesson plan. When this happened, they would turn to me and ask,  “Do you have anything for class in ten minutes?” I quickly learned to always have something on hand just in case.

Pen-Pal Program


Letters from American students

As ALT, I was the only English teacher at my primary school. I decided the students needed a chance for more international exposure than just me. I organized a pen-pal exchange from two advanced classes with two Language Arts classes from my high school

Christmas cards from Japanese students

Christmas cards from Japanese students

in Ohio.

It was voluntary and we had about 50 students participate. It was set up to be a one time exchange back and forth. If the pen-pals wanted to continue, they had the mailing address and they could continue on their own. The academic requirements for Japanese students are very strict to the textbook, so extra curricular work in the classroom was limited.


English Board and Post Box


My English board and post box

I also had an English board and post box. On the board were pictures of my most recent trips and simple text talking about each picture. I attached a postbox  I made that students could use to write letters to me.

This was especially useful for the special education students. They were very shy but wanted to ask me many questions so often, they would write letters in English, with the help of the special education teacher, and drop them in the mailbox. I would then write back and if I had extra time during the day, come to their class and talk more in depth about my answers. I was very fortunate that their teacher spoke excellent English and was incredibly goodhearted.


Speech Contest Coaching


Being awarded first place

Being awarded first place

One of my favorite extra things to do was working with the speech contest students. In Japan, once a year, each district has an English speech competition. There are two sub categories: recitation and speech.

Recitation was a student memorizing a story from the text book and then presenting it without any notes or reference materials. Speech is where the student writes their own speech based on a life experience and then memorizes it and presents it with out any reference material. Both types of presentations may not use a microphone.

I worked with students on their pronunciation, presentation, voice strength, stage presence, gestures, and memorization techniques. My background in choir and theater served as an invaluable resource for me when coaching.

My most successful student was part of the speech contest. She won the city and prefecture competitions, qualifying her for nationals in Tokyo. I dedicated summer vacation time, countless after school hours, and weekends coaching her and being present at all competitions in support. While she did not qualify for the final round in Tokyo, she went very far and feel proud to have helped her achieve so much.


 International Day

For an afternoon, eleven ALTs from Akita City, collaborated to make original workshops introducing an aspect of our home

Opening ceremony of International Day.

Opening ceremony of International Day.

culture.  I did a workshop on driving in America. I created an original activity that was fun and challenging for the students.

In preparation, I created blueprints of  a driving course that could fit into an average classroom. I designated certain places to be businesses or places of interest commonly found in most American towns. I also incorporated American road signs at the appropriate places on the track. I then chose two sentences from their text book to be the answer for a puzzle game. I assigned one word from each sentence to a location. Each location had the directions to the next place/word. If the students could read the directions properly, they solved the puzzle, earning them a sticker prize. I also added two false place/words that were not part of the directions so that I could see if they understood.

The original worksheet I made for this activity.

The original worksheet I made for this activity.

Giving a little help to lost drivers

Giving a little help to lost drivers


Students were instructed to make groups of four    and a ‘steering wheel’ was given to the designated driver.  They were given a starting point, a worksheet, and the first card directing them to the first word. It went well and the students all were successful in making the correct sentences.  Because the wide range of English  levels, I made the workshop as visual and straight forward as possible.



Sharing Halloween With the Community

Waiting for Candy

Waiting for Candy

In October 2012, I volunteered at a local community center to take part in an event hosted by a local private English school. Parents brought their young children to learn how to trick or treat since it is not a tradition in Japan.

One of the younger trick or treaters.

I also did Halloween lessons at my schools including a Prezi presentation introducing the holiday and scary story reading. Lower level students were given adjectives and had to use them to create an original monster.


Why Did I Leave This Job?

I spent two years teaching English in Akita. JET works on one year, renewable contracts for up to five years, maximum. I loved this job but I felt that staying longer would  postpone my career interests of becoming a study abroad program coordinator. I applied and was accepted to the Monterey Institute of International Studies to earn my masters degree in International Education Management (IEM). While it was heartbreaking to say goodbye to all the friends, students, and teachers I had become so close to, I know it was a step in the right direction toward my professional goals.