Trio of awards for University of Canterbury Japanese programme

New Zealand’s “most innovative lecturer” in Japanese has his heart and soul in the Japanese community and is a great role model, according to the judges for a national award.

Dr Masayoshi Ogino is one of two University of Canterbury (UC) lecturers and a student who took out three of the seven Japanese Studies Aotearoa New Zealand (JSANZ) national awards this week. Also from UC, Eri Kojima-Mathieson won Most Caring Lecturer (Highly Commended) and David Wells was awarded Most Engaged Second Year Student.

Most Innovative Lecturer is the latest accolade for the outstanding teacher who is “well recognised for his creative and innovative teaching both within UC and nationally,” UC’s Japanese programme lead Associate Professor Susan Bouterey says.

“Students appreciate Masa’s dynamic blending of such things as the online “World Café” forum, Tuakana-Teina/Senpai-kōhai (younger student-older student) mentoring, social media and other forms of technology to create supportive, interactive and authentic learning environments and communities that bridge different proficiency levels and the local with global,” she says.

Award-winning UC student David Wells agrees. He is evidence that Dr Ogino and Eri Kojima-Mathieson’s “really descriptive and vivid teaching” methods work. Returning to university after many years enjoying previous careers to pursue his love of Japanese culture and language, Wells says he must work hard to retain the information.

His lecturers have unusual ways to help him achieve this, including nursery rhymes to help students break down the grammar and remember the conjugations; “If you forget you go through the song”.

“They are brilliant lecturers. Ogino Sensei understands how to help students to remember things, to concentrate on what they are learning. Both teachers, their classes are never boring, they always have videos or cartoons or games or activities, they invite local native Japanese speakers to come to speak with us. Third-year students came to our class to talk about studying Japanese and we talk to the first-year students. They ask us a lot of questions and I found that really helpful.”

Japanese language uses three different written alphabets and encompasses everyday and polite forms of speaking, so it is not for faint-hearted.

Wells is not deterred, but he spends most of his time in lectures or revising and practising Japanese.

Wells plans to live in Japan for a year after graduating and then return to New Zealand to work for a Japanese company or a kiwi company working with Japan. He is well on his way, achieving 100% in one exam, reaching his goals, and earning high praise from his lecturers.

Dr Ogino says Wells is one of the “most amazing” students he has ever had; responsible, hard-working and enthusiastic. “David always shows a strong interest in Japanese, its culture, and society, which he regularly demonstrates in and outside class through his queries into specific topics, including grammatical structures,” he says.

Wells also has the good fortune to learn with Kojima-Mathieson, who is known for creating a fun and positive but still challenging learning environment, according to Associate Professor Bouterey. “I have personally seen her in action and been greatly impressed by the warm and vibrant atmosphere that she creates in the classroom and the ease with which she engages students and encourages them to extend themselves.”

The award citation says Kojima-Mathieson “lights up a room, makes tests less scary” and is “warm and welcoming, caring and respectful” with “excellent listening skills”. She “takes extra time to offer extra care and support”.

The University of Canterbury’s Japanese programme offers students ample opportunities to engage with Japanese culture and native speakers. A high level of teamwork adds to the opportunities on offer.