Hardbarger selected for JET Program
Cherokee Nation citizen Martha Hardbarger will spend a year teaching English to Japanese students in Osaka, Japan, through the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program. According to the JET Program website, the program receives 4,000 to 5,000 applications each year and 1,000 to 1,100 people are selected to participate in Japan. COURTESY
OSAKA, Japan – Cherokee Nation citizen Martha Hardbarger is putting together her inherent love for Japan with her newfound love for education so she can teach English for the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program.
“I am going to be paired with a Japanese teacher of English, so hopefully we will be able to cover each other’s weaknesses,” Hardbarger said of the yearlong program that began in August. “Ideally what will happen is we will team teach, the Japanese teacher giving explanations in Japanese when necessary, and me speaking only English to give them exposure to what native English speakers sound like and to get them to use the language in class more.”
The Sequoyah High School and Stanford University graduate first entertained the idea of living abroad after two visits to Japan, during one in which a host mother mentioned the JET Program.
After seeking her advice and that of a friend who had applied, Hardbarger completed the program’s three-phase application process.
The first phase requires the applicant to write a personal statement detailing what he or she would bring to the program and two recommendation letters. The second phase encompasses personal interviews that must be conducted at Japanese embassies or consulates around the United States. The final phase is acceptance and placement before orientation in Tokyo.
Hardbarger said that while the process takes nearly 10 months, it “makes sense” because of the program’s reputation and the responsibilities of being a participant.
“The JET Program is pretty competitive as they offer some of the greatest benefits for teaching abroad and are often employed by local governments,” she said. “Not only are JET participants expected to teach English, but they need to also expose students to different cultures and countries. I have had to do a few introduction PowerPoints and usually talk about my family camp at Stokes (ceremonial ground in Sequoyah County in Oklahoma), show pictures of me and my family at powwows, my graduation photos where I have beaded caps and a feather, traditional foods, our flag, what the Cherokee written language looks like and how it is on street and store signs around Tahlequah (Oklahoma) and pictures from Diligwa at the (Cherokee) Heritage Center.”
Though Japan and the CN are more than 6,000 miles apart, Hardbarger said her third visit abroad is revealing surprising similarities between the two cultures.
“Both lifestyles are more interdependent-oriented compared to independent,” she said.
“Relationships and working together are highly valued. Both cultures also have a high respect and honoring of nature. Another thing is the respect and value of elders. Something else that I’ve recently noticed is that during spring and summer, we have a lot of powwows and gatherings, and Japanese people have festivals and Cherry Blossom viewings, all of which are very social gatherings and celebrations.”
Hardbarger encourages anyone interested in teaching abroad to apply for the program and reach out to past participants for application help.
“Teaching abroad is one of the most rewarding, challenging experiences you can go through,” she said. “You will grow so much as a person, but you will also more than likely have some really difficult rough patches. The short times I had been to Japan before have been so memorable and life-changing that I am excited to see what happens when I have a whole year to spend here. Also, get as much help as you can with your application if you want to apply to a competitive program like the JET Program.”
Hardbarger earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 2016, but hopes that the JET experience will help determine if a teaching career is in her future instead.
“If I really enjoy teaching and am able to develop and grow that skill set while here, then I would consider doing a master’s program to get certified to teach in the U.S.,” she said. “If I do decide to become a teacher, then this experience will be great to share with students and show them that they can do more and explore the world if they work towards that goal.”