This story originally appeared in the spring 2014 Harker Quarterly.
Maruko Ishigami, a visiting exchange teacher from Tamagawa Academy K-12 School & University – Harker’s sister school in Tokyo, Japan – was touched by the warm welcome she received from students and faculty during her visit to Harker Jan. 7-18.
“This has been a very good experience. I am impressed by the children’s artwork here,” said Ishigami, who teaches art at Tamagawa’s elementary school and spent time observing classes at Harker’s lower, middle and upper school campuses.
She also helped teach art classes for grades 2-5, showing the second and third graders how to make traditional Japanese wood coasters and instructing the fourth and fifth graders in various painting techniques used in her country.
Grade 2 students Emi Fujimura, Shayla He and Shareen Chahal agreed that the best thing about making a wood coaster with Ishigami was “building it” from scratch, noting that the process reminded them of putting together a jigsaw puzzle. Classmate Vivek Nayyar said he especially enjoyed having a “visiting teacher” come to the classroom.
“It has been a truly fantastic experience having Maruko here,” agreed Gerry-louise Robinson, Harker’s lower school art teacher. “All the students warmed quickly to Maruko’s wonderful smile and gentle approach. Both grades 2 and 3 embraced this project with enthusiasm and determination!”
Ishigami also observed ceramics classes at the middle school and sat in on graphic arts, stone carving, drawing, photography and other art courses at the upper school.
Because her English is not fluent, Ishigami was aided by several Japanese-speaking faculty members who offered to be interpreters, joining her for meals and serving as friendly faces around campus.
From the moment her plane touched down at the San Francisco International Airport, Ishigami was kept engaged and busy. In addition to spending time observing and teaching classes at Harker, highlights of her visit included lunch with the administration, a visit to the San Jose Museum of Art, and sightseeing expeditions to Monterey Bay and San Francisco.
“I’ve really enjoyed showing Maruko around. She is very interested in everything that we do at Harker and is eager to learn all she can about our school and students. As an art teacher, she enjoyed viewing all the types of artwork our students are doing. It’s been fun seeing the students enjoying showing her their work,” noted Jennifer Walrod, Harker’s director of global education.
Tamagawa, a K-12 school and university, was founded in 1929 as an elementary education organization. Secondary education divisions were added later, and in 1947 Tamagawa University received approval for establishment as an “old system” (pre-war) university. As a comprehensive institution (gakuen), they currently provide education from kindergarten to graduate school on a single campus.