NORMAN — Japanese exchange teachers visited several Norman Public Schools this week, including Jefferson, McKinley and Reagan elementaries and Whittier Middle School.
Hitachi Computer Products (America) Inc. annually sends NPS teachers to Japan and arranges for Japanese educators to visit NPS to inspire education, collaboration and innovation. Hitachi has sponsored the program since 1994.
Jeannie Green LaCroix, Hitachi corporate affairs representative, said the program is a big commitment for Hitachi, but it is important to the corporation because of the educational and cultural growth it fosters.
“We tend to accept and like each other the more we know about each other,” LaCroix said.
This year, fifth-grade teacher Naoko Kemmotsu and curriculum coordinator Tamaki Tashiro came from Odawara City, Japan, to observe American schools in Oklahoma.
NPS teachers Yasmin Merchant, who teaches third grade at McKinley; Jennifer Toperzer, who is an instructional coach at Jefferson; and Cindy Castell, who teaches gifted and talented at Whittier, traveled to Japan last year. Merchant said during her experience in Japan, she visited six schools.
“I expected to see a lot of structure and learn how to integrate culture into the classroom,” Merchant said.
While visiting NPS schools, Japanese exchange teachers experienced Oklahoma culture as well as Native American history and classroom visits. McKinley Elementary sang “Oklahoma” for the exchange teachers, as well as arranged a Native American dance performance, and presented them with a dream catcher.
Merchant said she would encourage other teachers to participate in the program.
“It really let me see education on the global scale. How some of our struggles and victories are the same for all teachers no matter where we are,” Merchant said.
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