When an eighth grader signs up for Japanese I because of his or her love for anime, Japanese teacher Rachel Eio accepts this interest in Japanese culture and uses it to spark interest in the language.
“I’m not just a teacher of Japanese,” Eio said. “Everything that I do is so much more than just teaching grammar or vocabulary; it’s about bringing Japan to kids who are studying Japanese.”
Eio created the Japanese program at the high school, according to World Languages Curriculum Coordinator Agnès Albérola.
“She’s really bringing in the whole experience of Japan to the students,” Albérola said.
Eio also runs exchange programs and hosts cultural events at the high school. She has brought in Japanese drumming performers and a Japanese chef who demonstrated how to cook traditional Japanese food. Some of her classes participate in Japan Day–a trip to the Museum of Fine Arts with other Japanese programs in the area for the purpose of learning about Japanese culture and art, according to junior Nicholas Gallitano, a student in Japanese III Honor.
Aside from Japanese, Eio also teaches Asian American Studies as well as Gender and Society.
Eio is responsible for the high school’s relationship with Showa Boston, a Japanese women’s college in South Brookline, according to Gallitano.
“They come visit us a few times each year,” Gallitano said. “It’s a group of college girls. They keep us in touch with modern Japanese culture.”
Classes begin each day with a ritual called touban, in which one student goes to the front of the room and begins the class.
“I’m constantly looking for opportunities for bringing in Japan, to find ways of bringing in Japanese culture to life here,” Eio said.
The walls of Eio’s classroom show the importance that she places on culture. They are covered with Japanese paintings and maps, as well as posters of Japanese manga and pop culture. There is no English to be found.
Both of Gallitano’s older siblings also had Eio as a teacher.
“Whenever my brother and sister came home, they never complained about having to do Japanese homework; they were enthusiastic about it,” Gallitano said. “They were eager to help out with any events that we were having or volunteer for the exchange program.”
For her work with Japanese inside and outside of the classroom, Eio was given the John E. Thayer award “for outstanding contributions to cultural exchange between the United States and Japan,” according to the Japan Society of Boston’s website.
In her nomination letter for the award, Albérola praised Eio: “Her passion for the subject area translates into a myriad of opportunities that connect all our students with the language and culture of Japan.”
Sam Klein can be contacted at [email protected]