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Isabel Polakof, a speech-language pathologist with Educational and Development Intervention Services at Misawa Air Base, Japan, participates in a spelling drill at Edgren High School's Educators' Day on Monday.
Isabel Polakof, a speech-language pathologist with Educational and Development Intervention Services at Misawa Air Base, Japan, participates in a spelling drill at Edgren High School's Educators' Day on Monday. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)
Isabel Polakof, a speech-language pathologist with Educational and Development Intervention Services at Misawa Air Base, Japan, participates in a spelling drill at Edgren High School's Educators' Day on Monday.
Isabel Polakof, a speech-language pathologist with Educational and Development Intervention Services at Misawa Air Base, Japan, participates in a spelling drill at Edgren High School's Educators' Day on Monday. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)
Yoshikazu Hirata, a teacher in Aomori Prefecture in northern Japan, shows the proper way to cheer at a Japanese baseball game during Educators' Day at Edgren High School, Misawa Air Base, Japan. Sprinkled throughout the mostly academic sessions were light cultural lessons.
Yoshikazu Hirata, a teacher in Aomori Prefecture in northern Japan, shows the proper way to cheer at a Japanese baseball game during Educators' Day at Edgren High School, Misawa Air Base, Japan. Sprinkled throughout the mostly academic sessions were light cultural lessons. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)
Herb Bastuscheck, a Misawa resident who is the only foreigner in Japan certified to teach bonseki — a traditional Japanese rock and sand art — demonstrates his craft at Educators' Day.
Herb Bastuscheck, a Misawa resident who is the only foreigner in Japan certified to teach bonseki — a traditional Japanese rock and sand art — demonstrates his craft at Educators' Day. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — Students at this northern Japan base had the day off Monday while their teachers went to school — to learn.

Edgren High School hosted Educators’ Day for about 300 participants, including teachers, administrators and educational specialists from Edgren, Sollars and Cummings elementary schools.

Educators from Misawa and other bases in Japan, as well as community members, led the 45-minute classes with topics ranging from the academic — teaching fractions “with pizzazz” — to the humorous — how to cheer at a Japanese baseball game.

Educational consultant and keynote speaker Michael Eaton from Carrollton, Texas, led sessions in math and reading.

Lessons also were given on health, technology, culture, military operations, physical fitness and science. Teachers in the afternoon toured a local Japanese elementary school. They also discussed ways to encourage student learning and participation: Allow bullying in the classroom and a child might be afraid to speak up for fear of being ridiculed, counselors advised.

Many of the sessions introduced innovative instructional techniques, while others were strictly for personal edification and enjoyment, said Edgren High School English and language arts teacher Laurie Kuntz.

Educators’ Day “allows teachers a day where they can be educated, since we’re always giving the education,” she said. “We learn what’s new and innovative in the world of education.”

Isabel Polakof, a speech-language pathologist with Educational and Developmental Intervention Services, or EDIS, picked up the idea of building a word wall to help young readers. Rather than just displaying the alphabet in a classroom, instructors can use big and colorful word boards to help students learn to read and spell high-frequency words.

Educators’ Day, Polakof said, encourages “creativity in teaching techniques.”

It also gives teachers an opportunity to kick back and have some fun while learning. Participants had an opportunity to hear about Hawaiian massage therapy — and take part in hands-on demonstrations — as well as see the only foreign-certified bonseki teacher in Japan at work. Misawa resident and school volunteer Herb Bastuscheck has studied traditional Japanese rock and sand art for 13 years and can create vivid nature scenes with white sand and a few, delicate brush strokes.

While the sand art demonstration was a glimpse at a little-known art form, teachers also were looking for ways to improve their craft.

“I always come away with something I can use in the classroom,” said Cummings kindergarten teacher Marita O’Grady.

Perry High School on Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station is to hosts Educators’ Day for Iwakuni and Sasebo Naval Base teachers and administrators on Oct. 22. Community members are invited to attend.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
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