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April 19, 2023

Recently I interviewed Teaching Professor Fumi Iwashita, who teaches in the Japanese program with us, to get the scoop on everything from her classes to her cool hobbies. Read on to learn more about Professor Iwashita and all she does for her students here in DAMES!

Items for a display used by Professor Iwashita’s students to teach others about Japanese culture.

For those who might not know, can you tell us a little about yourself and what you teach here in DAMES?

My name is Fumi Iwashita and I am from Tokyo, Japan. I’ve lived in the US since 2003, got married here and have two young children. I love to do DIY projects and organize events such as parties and cultural events for the Japanese program!

Students and professors alike (fellow Japanese instructor Yuki Aratake is pictured in the green shirt) enjoy Professor Iwashita’s recent Origami Night event.

How long have you been teaching here at UNC?

I have been teaching Japanese language and culture at UNC since 2008, and I absolutely love doing it.

What is your favorite way to engage students in your classes?

I like motivating students by making a welcoming atmosphere in my classroom. Every student is expected to speak out at least a few times in every class. You won’t get better at speaking Japanese unless you participate! My students are the main element of each lesson. My lesson is organized in such a way that student participation is crucial. Students sometimes change the course of a planned lesson but that makes the class more lively and interesting.

Have you had any events with your classes over the past few months?

Most recently, I organized Origami Night for our students. I invited Japanese families and children from the Triangle area to the event. Students enjoyed folding origami paper into different objects such as cats, jumping frogs and boxes, while at the same time, they engaged in cultural and language exchange with native Japanese speakers.

Origami Night fun!

In spring 2023, I went to two elementary schools in Chapel Hill to share Japanese culture with the students there! I also participated as a judge in a Japanese speech contest at East Chapel Hill High School. I greatly enjoyed hearing high school students telling their stories in Japanese. I will continue to visit K-12 schools in the community so that one day they may take Japanese language courses or become one of us at DAMES! I would especially like my students to join in that journey in the future!

A display created by Professor Iwashita’s students to teach others about Japanese culture.
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