Bright Teacher Is Educating Her Students

Have you ever walked by room A102 and wondered what was going on in there and who is teaching? Well, to answer that question, it is Betsy Paskvan’s room and those are her students learning Japanese. Paskvan has been teaching Japanese off and on for approximately 18 years and at Dimond for three of those 18 years. She really enjoys teaching this language and has taught at the King Career Center, in Anchorage Community Schools and also in Jakarta, Indonesia. “ In Jakarta,” Paskvan said, “the people are poor and have very little ability to get a good job. “I really liked helping the people there because I knew I was doing it for a good cause. It made me feel quite happy.” Most of her students say that Japanese is quite interesting and they thought it would be a fun, exciting language to study. They would also like to continue taking it throughout college if it is possible. Did you know that in Japan the kids are supposed to learn 200 Kanji per year, 900 Kanji by the end of sixth grade and 2000 Kanji by the end of there high school year? Kanji are the Japanese characters (symbols) that represent Japanese words. The schooling that people have to accomplish to know this language well enough is extensive. Studies show that to be able to be fluent in Japanese, a person would have to study and speak the language for 40 hours a week, all day long for seven years. Although Japanese may be one of the hardest languages to learn, Paskvan really made an effort to have the knowledge of this language so she could teach it to her students. She attended Cornell University for four years and then an additional summer to learn teaching methods for Japanese. She then moved to Japan and spoke Japanese all day long, which really improved her ability to speak the language. She also worked for a Japanese company for four years, which expanded her vocabulary. “I really like the culture that the Japanese have and their writing system is uniquely their own,” Paskvan said, “When you talk in Japanese it forces you to be polite and use your manners.” When Paskvan teaches, she uses the TPRS method, which is also known as Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling. It enables her students to make up their own creative stories, to have fun and be free with their speech. Using this method helps students comprehend the language more because if they use the language patterns the teacher gives them in their own, creative, funny stories, it is easier for them to remember the patterns. TPRS is a national teaching system for teachers who are teaching different languages. A good TPRS day is being able to ask 40 to 50 questions and having students be able to answer them fully with descriptive words. A few students don’t think that this method is any better than just teaching it plainly, but others disagree. For example, Freshman Jerel Cabesas says, “I get a lot out of the way she teaches. It is very helpful and I have fun.” Paskvan said, “Most of us do not know how hard it is to speak a foreign language and how hard it is to communicate with it. Using this method benefits us because we speak a lot and sometimes we communicate things that we didn’t think we could.” Paskvan grades students on their ability to communicate and write the language. At the end of the day, she does comprehension checks on the patterns she used that day. If she feels that the students still need help in that section, she continues them the next day. Paskvan thinks that her students shouldn’t be graded on their pace or fluency but on their ability to speak smoothly and have the understanding of the words. Once a person learns one foreign language, they can usually apply it to other languages. To sum this up, learning Japanese form Paskvan is worthwhile. She takes the time to work with students, and she makes sure they understand the language. Japanese may be a hard language, but it’s getting the experience of an amazing country. “Japanese is one of the major languages throughout the world because of how big the economy is in Japan,” one student says. Japan is the country that exceeds in entertainment, the arts and literature. It’s a culture that gets you to think positively and really understand what hard work means.