2016 Award Recipients

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Mr. Robert Clavelle
Humanities Category
Building Trades Instructor
Hartford Area Career and Technology Center
White River Junction, VT


Mr. Robert Clavelle is a native Vermonter born in Winooski and currently residing in the small town of South Royalton. He is in his 26th year as the Building Trades Instructor at the Hartford Area Career and Technology Center located in White River Jct., Vermont. Students in Bob’s program construct a house over a two year period and are involved in all aspects of the project from site work to finish work. Upon completion, the houses are sold at fair market value. Students are taught the latest in construction techniques and materials with an emphasis on energy efficiency.

Bob’s love and passion for Japan and its culture and people began in the summer of 2000. He was provided an opportunity to be a participant in the University of Vermont’s Asian Studies Outreach Program “Institute in Japan” a three-week study program in Japan, funded by the United States-Japan Foundation, with a focus on learning Japanese culture and bringing it back to the classroom. While in Japan, Bob home stayed with Dr. and Mrs. Fujinaga. At the end of a busy day, they would spend endless hours enjoying Japanese food and talking about Japan and its culture. This was the beginning of a long- lasting friendship. To this day, at the age of 78, Mrs. Fujinaga travels to Fukuoka to meet Bob and his students to enjoy a Japanese meal together and present each student with a beautiful Japanese kimono. This is a tradition that has taken place every year Bob has taken students to Japan.

After returning from his second of eighteen trips to Japan in 2002, Bob began to formulate an idea for a student program focused on technical education students. A feasibility study in the summer of 2003 brought him to four technical high schools in the cities of Tokyo, Kanazawa, Osaka and Fukuoka. It was in Fukuoka that he connected with the Fukuoka School of Technology. Thus the creation of the first program in Japan in 2004 called the “US Japan Technical Education Study Program.” Students worked side by side with their Japanese peers in the career pathways of Construction, Computer Technology, Media Arts and Industrial Mechanics. Upon completion of the 2005 program Bob was the recipient of the Asian Studies Outreach Program’s “Excellence in International Education” award.

In an effort to offer the opportunity to students in other career pathways to participate in the US Japan Technical Education Study Program, the 2006 program placed students in career work experiences in businesses within Fukuoka in conjunction with the Fukuoka School of Technology. 2007 turned the corner and all students participated in career work experiences in businesses within Fukuoka. These included Cosmetology, Construction, Media Arts, Child Care, Medical Services, Public Safety, Welding and Natural Resources/Japanese Gardens. With the economic slowdown in 2008 the program was put on hold.

In 2012 Bob received a grant from the United States-Japan Foundation to travel to Japan and re-establish the program. In 2013, Bob established US Japan Technical Connections, Inc. and received nonprofit status in the fall of 2014. Now called the “US Japan Career and Cultural Study Program,” the 2016 summer program will be the fourth since the creation of the nonprofit.

Through the US Consulate in Fukuoka, Bob was introduced to the Onojo City International Exchange Association. Over the past few years they have established a strong working relationship. In 2014 they collaborated on a grant from the U.S.-Japan Council’s “Tomodachi Initiative” and had the first program in Vermont for students from Onojo City. The 2016 OCIEA Career and Cultural Study Program in Vermont will be the third.

Over the years, Bob has helped students return to Japan upon graduation for short three month internships in their career pathway as well as semesters abroad studying Japanese language. Bob works tirelessly throughout the year organizing the program in Japan and Vermont in conjunction with assisting students who wish to return to both either country. His passion for providing students with these unique opportunities is the driving force behind the success of the programs. Bob is currently in the early stages of developing a business plan that will allow the nonprofit to continue to provide these opportunities for students for years come. Project funds from the award will be utilized to provide scholarships to students who do not have the financial means to participate in the program and those wanting to return.

Mr. Koichi Sano
Japanese Language Category
Teacher of Japanese Language
Abraham Lincoln High School
San Francisco, CA


Mr. Koichi Charles Sano was born and raised in Mishima, Japan. Fascinated by American culture and its language, he moved to the U.S. to continue his education, receiving a B.A. in Linguistics from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a single subject teaching credential from San Francisco State University.

Koichi is currently teaching 2nd year, 3rd year Honors, and AP Japanese at Abraham Lincoln High School in San Francisco. He has been teaching at the school since 1992 and serving as Department Chair of World Languages since 1999. Over the last 24 years, he has developed a small part time program into a program with over 200 students and 2 full time teachers. Koichi has also established numerous cultural exchange programs with high schools in Shizuoka and Aomori Prefectures as well as program sponsorships with organizations such as Hino Motors and Sankei Press of Japan.

A strong advocate for building relationships with and among the students he serves, he involves all of them in the school’s Japanese Culture Club to further promote mutual understanding between Americans and Japanese. In 2011, Koichi and the Japanese Culture Club were honored with an Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award and a School Spirit Award by Asian Week Foundation for launching a successful Operation N.I.N.J.A. (Now In Need of Japan Aid) fundraiser which has raised over $17,000 to date. Most recently, he participated in piloting the IUC (Inter-University Center for Japanese Language Study) 3/11 Manga Project lesson developed by Mr. Norman Masuda.