2006 Award Recipients

Ms. Fumiko Harada-Ziemer
Japanese Language Category (Co-recipient)

Ms. Fumiko Harada-Ziemer

Fumiko Harada-Ziemer has been known on Guam as Harada-sensei since the early 80’s. After obtaining a B.A. in Japan, she triple majored in East Asian Studies, Japanese Studies, and Secondary Education at the University of Guam (UOG). She further received a Masters in Education from UOG.

Harada-sensei began her teaching career at Father Duenas Memorial School (FDMS), Guam’s only Catholic boys’ high school. She was invited to Guam by her high school social studies teacher, a Mercedarian sister who then arranged for the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration to sponsor her in their convent, instructing her in Western living and English language. Finding her vocation, she has been teaching Japanese to grades 8-12 at St. John’s School (SJS) since 1994, and has been an adjunct professor of Japanese at UOG since 1998.

Harada-sensei helped initiate a brother school program for FDMS and a secondary school in Osaka in 1989. Several FDMS students experienced snow skiing in Japan through this program. In 1993 sensei traveled throughout the former Nan’yo Micronesian islands as a research assistant and translator, interviewing elderly Japanese speaking Micronesians. This was funded through the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Among the grants Harada-sensei has been awarded are the Japan Foundation’s “Pedagogy Workshop for High School Teachers of Japanese” in 1997, “Infusing East Asian Studies into the Primary and Secondary Curriculum on Guam” by UOG in 1998, and the Japan Foundation’s “Training Program for Japanese Language Teachers Abroad” in 2001, which formed a worldwide Japanese teacher’s network to exchange teaching ideas and methods.

Harada-sensei’s teaching has benefitted from her creativity and her vivacious class activities. She created a keyword mnemonic strategy to teach kanji by which students learn to link new characters with their own knowledge. Students create sentences combining onyomi, kunyomi, and meaning, then create a picture containing kanji characters. She presented this strategy at the annual ACTFL meeting in 1998. To her classroom Harada-sensei invites presenters from Japan such as Mr. Koda (Panel Theater), Mrs. Metsugi (e-tegami), Mrs. Kobayashi (tea ceremony), Ms. Tadokoro (calligraphy), and Ms. Yasuoka (yosakoi).

Harada-sensei’s teaching is enriched by her international travels. Since 1998 she has visited Karuizawa three times through the Rotary Club student exchange program. Every year only five students from Guam are selected to attend this prestigious program. Sensei helped to build the bridge between Ritsumeikan High School (Rits) and SJS. Consequently, SJS was invited to attend the Rits Super Science Fair in 2004. In the spring of 2006, 100 Rits students visited SJS and enjoyed a cultural exchange and sports.

Located just three jet hours from Tokyo, tourism is the main industry for the tropical island of Guam. Most tourists are from Japan, thus the demand for teaching Japanese is high. Harada-sensei, together with several Guam teachers, helped revitalize the Japanese Language Teachers Association (JALTA). JALTA organized the Guam’s 1st Regional Japan Bowl in 2004. Harada-sensei had the honor of taking the SJS team together with the FDMS teams to the National Japan Bowl. JALTA also organizes the Japanese Ultra Quiz for Japanese secondary and college learners, a Japanese version of the Academic Challenge Bowl.

The impact of Harada-seisei’s teaching can be seen in the success of her students. In the ten years that she has been teaching Japanese International Baccalaureate students, all have successfully completed the exam. Furthermore, her graduates have pursued Japanese studies in both the U.S. and Japan, including Kyoto University, Keio University, Sophia University, International Christian University, and the East-West Center. Also, some of her students have become sensei through the JET program.

Harada-sensei intends to use the grant to help students create a Guam promotional video for use in student exchange programs. The funds will also help a winner of the Ultra Japanese Quiz to visit Japan for a home stay program, and help send the Guam team to the 2007 National Japan Bowl.

Ms. Chie Helinski
Japanese Language Category (Co-recipient)

Ms. Chie Helinski came to the US in 1986 and studied at Eugene Lang College/New School and at Bank Street College of Education in New York City. At these schools, she met four fiercely passionate and inventive teachers who took her under their wings and greatly influenced her thinking and her approach to education. They were very opinionated but taught from a breadth of knowledge. They loved teaching, for teaching was the way for them to learn their subjects in greatest depth. And they loved their students.

Ms. Helinski began teaching Japanese in 1991 when she started a program at IS 98 in the South Bronx. She soon found out how much she loved it and wanted to be like the teachers she so enjoyed. In 1995, She moved to Frederick Douglass Academy, a public high school in Harlem, and started a Japanese program there. Ms. Helinski was the foreign language department coordinator from 1999 to 2000. While at Frederick Douglass, she took students to her parents’ house in Tokyo for three summers to give them first-hand experience of Japan. In 2000, she moved to Stuyvesant High School in lower Manhattan, where she currently teaches.

In addition to teaching Japanese at Stuyvesant, Ms. Helinski is a faculty advisor of Japan Bowl, National Honor Society, anime club, Go club, Kendo club, Inspiration (the school’s literary and art publication), and Robocup club.

Ms. Helinski has been the coordinator for the New York City public school Japanese teachers since 2003. When the New York Japan Bowl regional competition started in 2001, she was one of the committee members and was the regional representative between 2003 and 2005. In 2004, Ms. Helinski received the New York Times “The Teachers Who Make a Difference Award.” In the fall of 2005, she helped found East-West School, a public school with an Asian theme. It will open this fall in Queens, NY.

Ms. Helinski plans to use the grant money to enrich the Japanese program at Stuyvesant High School and for prizes for an event to replace the terminated Japan Bowl regional competition. She envisions the event to be a fun, cooperative event to celebrate the accomplishment of the students learning Japanese and honor their teachers.

Ms. Vicki Stroud Gonterman
Humanities Category
Humanities Teacher

Ms. Vicki Stroud Gonterman

Ms. Vicki Stroud Gonterman has been a social studies teacher (both elementary and secondary) for 26 years and has taught international studies at Gibbs Magnet School of International Studies and Foreign Languages in Little Rock, Arkansas for 19 years. Currently she teaches second graders about Japan, their classroom nation, and fourth and fifth graders about Japanese Americans. Ms. Gonterman began developing lessons and collecting materials on Japan in 1986 when she began hosting teachers from Japan in her home and classroom. In 1991, she was selected as an exchange teacher to Sapporo, Japan through the Metropolitan Jr. Chamber of Commerce of Little Rock and the Sapporo Jr. Chamber of Commerce and worked on all subsequent exchanges finding participants and host families. The summer before the exchange, she was accepted for participation in the Mid-South–Japan in the Schools Project funded by the U.S.-Japan Foundation which included a summer study at the Asian Studies Center at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and a study tour of Japan in the summer of 1992.

Following her study tour across Honshu, Ms. Gonterman created an elementary unit on Japan Studies and helped to integrate Japan Studies in all second grade classrooms in the Little Rock School District. In 1993, Ms. Gonterman participated in an intense summer study of Japanese literature, film, and culture at California State University in Sacramento funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

She became a charter board member and officer of the Japan-America Society of Arkansas in 1994 and now serves as its first female president of the board. In 2003, Ms. Gonterman was accepted by the Japanese American National Museum and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock for a two-year project entitled “Life Interrupted: The Japanese American Experience in World War II Arkansas.” After a study at the museum in Los Angeles, she helped write and disseminate a state-wide elementary curriculum for teaching about the internment experience at the two WWII relocation camps located in Arkansas. The project culminated in a national conference and reunion of internees. Perhaps the most well-known Arkansas internee, George Takei (actor and activist), spoke with her fifth grade international studies students.

As a recipient of the National Peace Corps Association’s Global TeachNet Global Education Award for 2005 and the recipient of the Arkansas Fulbright International Educator Award in 1988, Ms. Gonterman has presented at numerous local, district, and state level workshops and state and national conferences, many on Japan Studies. In addition to her teacher exchange and study tour in Japan, she has also been an exchange teacher in Bremen, Germany (1987), and participated in the UALR program entitled “Bringing Mexico to Arkansas Schools” which included a study at the Autonomous University of Guadalajara in Mexico in 2001.

Ms. Gonterman plans to use grant funds to form a sister-school relationship that includes various exchanges with an elementary school in Tsu City, Japan and to implement a Japan Evening in Little Rock.