EMU honors two outstanding lecturers
YPSILANTI - Yukari Fujiwara was working in sales "down under" when she realized she wanted to teach Japanese. Clarinda Flannery, struck by a photo of a poor Appalachian community she saw as a child, decided she wanted to teach.
These unexpected revelations helped lead Fujiwara and Flannery to their true calling of teaching languages. As a result of their professional dedication, the two Eastern Michigan University lecturers were recently named recipients of EMU’s Third Annual Full-Time Lecturers Outstanding Teaching Award. The two will be honored at a ceremony March 9, 5:30-7:30 p.m., at University House. Each will receive a $1,000 honorarium and a plaque. The event is by invitation only.
The award, given by academic affairs, requires documentation showing a lecturer's commitment to the education of students and their ability to facilitate student learning from effective teaching.
"I couldn't believe it. At the same time, I was so happy," said Fujiwara, when she learned she had won the award. Fujiwara, of Ypsilanti, has been a lecturer of Japanese at EMU since 1999.
"I'm thrilled. I was so surprised that I actually cried," said Flannery, of Pleasant Lake who has lectured at EMU since 1995 and became a Lecturer II in May 2004. "I felt like I won a Golden Globe or an Academy Award."
“EMU’s full-time lecturers provide an important part of our students’ learning experiences,” said Don Loppnow, interim provost and vice president for academic affairs. “It is important to recognize and congratulate these outstanding individuals for their contributions to our students at our university.”
Fujiwara was working in sales for a company in Queensland, Australia, in 1991-92. While there, she met so many people who said they would love to learn Japanese.
"I realized there was a job in teaching Japanese," she said.
When she returned to Japan, she did secretarial work while pursuing her education to teach Japanese. She came to the U.S. in 1996 as part of a teacher exchange program and taught Japanese as a language assistant teacher at West Bloomfield High School. In 1999, she began pursuing her master's degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) at EMU. A year later, she was teaching "Beginning Japanese I."
"I want my students to enjoy learning Japanese, not suffering to do their work," said Fujiwara, who combines listening exercises, memorization techniques and visual aids in her teaching style. "I really like teaching young people. I think it's very hard to learn Japanese, especially writing it. Speaking it is maybe a little easier than writing it."
Flannery, who teaches English 121 composition courses, takes great satisfaction in seeing her students slowly realize the importance of writing in life.
“You don’t learn writing to write a good essay. You learn to write because it’s intellectually stimulating,” Flannery said. “Writing is a critical thinking skill. Skills you practice here you use in real life.”
She often reminds her students that a resume littered with typos “won’t even get you in the door for a job interview.”
Ironically, it was a photo in an old magazine that hit home for Flannery that not everyone is allowed an educational opportunity.
"There was a 'Look' or 'Life' magazine that ran a pictorial on the plight of the Appalachians,” she recalled. "There were pictures of children that were very poor, dirty and they didn't have anything. One picture was of a little girl with an old broken-down doll and a book. For whatever reason, that picture moved me. It was in that moment that I wanted to give her a clean classroom and a safe place to learn."
Flannery, who was eight when she saw the photo, said that experience gave her an inkling that her dream was to teach. But, as Flannery puts it, "it was a dream deferred."
Because she got married and had children, Flannery didn't go to college until she was in her 30s. But once she started at EMU in 1989, she quickly fell in love with reading, writing and poetry. After receiving her bachelor's degree in English language and literature, she pursued her master's degree in written communication.
"A couple of teachers said I might want to go into teaching. They recognized something. That's what did it," Flannery said. "When I started college, that wasn't my plan. I just wanted to get a degree. I started teaching part-time (in 1995). It evolved from there."
Eastern Michigan University is a public, comprehensive university that offers programs in the arts, sciences and professions. EMU prepares students with the intellectual skills and practical experiences to succeed in their careers and lives, and to be better citizens.
Eastern Michigan University is a public, comprehensive university that offers programs in the arts, sciences and professions. EMU prepares students with the intellectual skills and practical experiences to succeed in their career and lives, and to be better citizens.
Editor's Note: Looking for an expert source for a story? Check out EMU's Eastern Experts online at www.emich.edu/univcomm/easternexperts.