After completing the CLS Program, Kristin Wingate (Kyoto, Japan '11) got a position teaching Japanese at Ridge High School in New Jersey. She spoke with CLS staff about her position and CLS experiences.
|Kristin at Itsukushima Shrine in Miyajima with the famous red torii in the background|
Tell us about your job.
Right now I’m teaching Japanese Language and Culture, including an AP Japanese course, at Ridge High School in Basking Ridge, New Jersey. I teach students in grades 9-12, and my classes are relatively small, which enables me to get to know my students and their learning styles very well.
Perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of my position is the fact that I use Japanese every day to teach young people with such bright futures and so much potential. Each day I go to work I am hoping they will fall in love with Japanese culture and language like I have.
After a successful first year of teaching, many of my students have told me that Japanese is their favorite class during the day and that they always look forward to learning. I think that's one of the most rewarding things a teacher can hear.
How did you find out about this position?
I found out about this position through my professor/adviser at my home institute (Seton Hall University). The Japanese teacher at Ridge High School had moved to a new position shortly before the school year started, and they needed to quickly find someone qualified to fill the position. As a result, the process of interviewing and being hired was unusually fast.
Did you feel that your CLS experience gave you an edge over other candidates applying for the position?
Yes, absolutely. Without the experience of participating in the CLS Program in Japan, I would not have had the necessarily skills to perform my job.
I emphasized my CLS experience during my job interview, specifically mentioning that I had participated in two intensive eight-week language programs (the CLS Program and Middlebury Language Schools) that helped me grow not only linguistically but also as a teacher, since I was able to observe different teaching methods. I also noted that as a student who had participated in these programs, I knew what kind of feelings high school students might have regarding language study and how I could best support them.
What advice would you give to a student interested in following a similar career path?
- Study Japanese (or whatever your target language is) inside AND outside of the classroom
- Participate in as many exchange programs as you can afford. Apply for scholarships and fellowships
- Make Japanese friends
- Hold language exchanges
- Chat in Japanese with your peers who are also studying the language
- Volunteer at a high school as a student teacher, and find work as a substitute teacher
- Tutor in your target language
- Present papers and research at conferences
- Do as much as you can in your field, and do as much as you can related to teaching and Japanese
What are your fondest memories of the CLS Program?
Many of my memories revolve around the amazing group dynamics of our institute. We were always laughing together, collaborating, and helping each other – no matter what class we were in.
Our teamwork was put to the test when we traveled as a group to Hiroshima and went net fishing together. We had to pull the heaviest net full of fish and other sea creatures onto the shore from meters out in the ocean. With everyone’s effort, we were able to do it, and afterwards we celebrated by grilling all of our catches and eating together. I think it was such a remarkable display of everyone’s cooperation!
What is your favorite Japanese word or phrase, and what does it mean in English?
It means “to try with all one’s might.”
Can you tell us a little more about your personal background?
I was raised in New Jersey and enjoy running, playing rhythm video games, and baking. In addition to teaching, I am also an adviser of the Japanese National Honor Society at Ridge High School and the Treasurer/Webmaster of the New Jersey Association of Teachers of Japanese, as well as a member of the American Association of Teachers of Japanese.