2007 Award Recipients

Ms. Sandra Garcia
Japanese Language Category
Teacher of Japanese Language Forest Grove High School
Forest Grove, Oregon

Ms. Sandra Garcia

Since 1989 Sandra Garcia has been teaching Japanese at Forest Grove High School; currently there are five levels. She started a program at the local middle school in 1995 and is also an adjunct at Pacific University.

At nine years old Sandy fell in love with Japan; a missionary had shared experiences about this fascinating country. It was then, according to her mother, she decided she would go to Japan as an exchange student. In high school Sandy was an exchange student, but went to Tehuacan, Mexico. Later, while attending Oregon State University she spent six months at the University of Guadalajara, Mexico. It was not until the age of twenty-three that her dream would become reality; she spent one year at Waseda University, Tokyo, Japan. S he decided to stay in Japan and studied an additional year at Nichibei Kaiwa Gakuin before teaching Spanish and Earth Science at Christian Academy (Tokyo) for four years.

Sandy actually began teaching Japanese in the fall of 1987. While attending a workshop on Japanese pedagogy, Susan Cabello, then head of the World Language Department at Pacific University, handed her an application to teach the following semester. Sandy taught that entire year, and later started working at the High School.

In the classroom Sandy tries to find updated methods to help her students learn Japanese. She experiments with new teaching techniques, materials, and technology.

Every other year Sandy leads a group of high school students to Japan. The group attends a high school in Osaka as well as visiting Hiroshima before traveling to Forest Grove’s sister city, Nyuzen, Toyama, and Tokyo.

Besides working in the classroom, Sandy is president of the Sister City Association where she helps with visiting delegations. She helped organize the local Benkyoukai, a Japanese teacher study group in 1992. She has had the opportunity to learn and share with a great group of teachers. She is past-president of the Japanese Teacher’s Association in Oregon (ATJO) and past-president of COFLT (Oregon’s association for language teaching). Sandy is also past-treasurer of NCJLT (National Council of Japanese Language Teachers). Currently she is working on state standards in Oregon and with the College Board on the AP Japanese exam. She also does presentations at various conferences.

Mr. Alejandro Echevarria
Humanities Category
Humanities Teacher
Rampart High School – Colorado Springs, Colorado

Mr. Alejandro Echevarria

Mr. Alejandro (Alex) Echevarria is a humanities teacher at Rampart High School in Colorado Springs. He is a teacher in the International Baccalaureate (IB) Program and teaches IB Theory of Knowledge, IB East Asian Regional History and IB 20th Century History. He has taught a wide-range of subjects including World History, Asian Studies, U.S. History, Ethnic/Minority Studies, and Geography and has been a teacher and coordinator for the IB Middle Years Program. Mr. Echevarria is the faculty sponsor of the Japan Club and was the sponsor of the National Honor Society for six years. He led the district’s Secondary Social Studies Curriculum and was the editor for the district’s Social Studies Standards.

Mr. Echevarria first became interested in Japan when he was six years old and watched the Seven Samurai. As a young boy he studied judo in a traditional dojo and has studied the martial arts for over half of his life. He remembers the influence his high school Asian Studies teacher, Mrs. Hargrove, had on pushing him to study East Asia in college. He majored in history with a minor in philosophy and a certificate in Asian Studies. After college, Mr. Echevarria was invited to teach in Japan under the JET Program and he taught in a small mountain town in Fukui-ken. Upon returning from Japan he went to graduate school to study Asian history and religion. His master’s thesis focused on the U.S. Occupation of Japan and the policies concerning the separation of religion from the state.

Since becoming a high school teacher, Mr. Echevarria has led student study tours to Japan and works with Colorado Spring’s sister-city Fujiyoshida to promote student exchanges. In 2007 he led a group of students to the Noto Peninsula to participate in the Manjiro Grassroots Summit for furthering international relations between the U.S. and Japan. He believes his students must experience and participate in Asian culture to understand the region’s history. His classes have experienced the tea ceremony, held international conferences with Japanese college students, studied Buddhism with Thubten Chodron (author and writer), practiced kenpo-karate, learned about Chinese medicine and had acupuncture performed on them, practiced kanji and sumi painting, were taught Japanese, Korean, and Chinese by the ESL students in their school, ate Asian food and snacks, watched anime and Japanese movies, handled Japanese cultural artifacts, and of course learned about the history, literature, and religions of Japan and Asia.

Mr. Echevarria has taken many workshops and summer institutes with the Teaching East Asia (TEA) Program at the University of Colorado and the East Asia Resource Center at the University of Washington. He has been twice to China and once to Japan on the Freeman Foundation study tours conducted by TEA. He is a seminar leader for the National Consortium for Teaching about Asia (NCTA), conducts classes on Asia for his district, and contributes book reviews for the journal Education About Asia. Mr. Echevarria owes much of his professional development opportunities on Asia to support from the Freeman Foundation and from Lynn Parisi, director of the TEA Program in Boulder, Colorado.