Japanese intern teaching K-12 in Enterprise schools

Mie Sasaki is teaching the Japanese language to 25 Enterprise junior high school students. Photo by Rocky Wilson

The Enterprise school system has a new face in the person of Mie Sasaki from Japan. Sasaki is working in the school courtesy of the International Internship Program which has brought her from the city of Sapporo, Japan, to teach Japanese culture, traditions, customs, language and art. She does not receive a salary for her efforts.

In the school since arriving in Wallowa County Oct. 19, Sasaki is working primarily in grades K-8. In addition she has already shared some Japanese cooking techniques with Debbie Hadden's high school home economics class.

Though the transition from a city of 1.8 million people to Wallowa County may be abrupt, she says that the climate is strikingly similar.

Sasaki worries about her English speaking skills and encourages her many students to be patient with her. She says that she speaks "poor English," while the woman in the home where she is staying - Debbie Short - says she speaks "great English." She will stay in the home of Debbie and Chuck Short for six months, until April of 2003.

The 49-year-old Sasaki has traveled much throughout the world and is extremely happy to be living in Wallowa County. Born on Oct. 18, she says that coming to Wallowa County "was her birthday present, her dream."

Superintendent of schools and grade school principal Brad Royse told the Enterprise school board at its November meeting that Sasaki had already provided more good for the school system than he had ever hoped for.

Unlike the stereotype of her countrymen, Sasaki says that she does not like to eat rice. What she has discovered to her liking since arriving this time in America are bean burritos. A vegetarian, she calls herself a "burritoaholic."

Three major differences she has already noticed in this, her third or fourth trip to the United States (the other trips were for a far shorter period of time, she says), is that the Japanese do not wear shoes in the house, the Japanese make a lot of noise eating noodles and her countrymen eat far fewer sweets.

A housewife by trade, Sasaki says she has never before been a teacher and has a lot to learn. She is taking a computer class from EHS instructor Mike Baird to help her with the laptop computer she was required to bring with her by the International Internship Program. She is required to submit a monthly progress report and paid her own transportation costs.

She enjoys walking and has already experienced some American traditions such as a Halloween party (she attended in traditional Japanese dress) and a baby shower. She labeled the latter an "English shower" because there were a large number of women speaking English so fast that she had trouble understanding what they were saying.

Sasaki, the wife of Masahiro Sasaki of Sapporo, began teaching the Japanese language to 25 junior high school students last week.

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