Staff Spotlight: Ryan

Managing Consultant, Kita Kanto Branch


What position do you hold at Interac? What has been your career path so far?

I am the Managing Consultant (MC) for the Kita Kanto Branch which covers the Gunma, Ibaraki, Saitama and Tochigi prefectures. I started off as an ALT in September 2007 with Interac and spent my first three contracts until March 2010 in Ibaraki working as an ALT in two elementary schools and one junior high school.

After that, I moved to Tokyo and worked at two elementary schools, one of which was a special school in Shizuoka prefecture and I commuted by bullet train every Friday. I had to wake up at 4:30 in the morning for that assignment but I really enjoyed working with the students and staff at the very small school in the mountains.

In my second year in Tokyo, I was promoted to the position of Head Teacher for my particular board of education and during the year I started taking on training responsibilities as well. From April 2012 I was a full-time trainer for the Tokyo branch and in charge of nine boards of education.

From September 2013, I became the Managing Consultant and still remain in that position to this day. I currently am in charge of 163 ALTs living and working within the four prefectures listed previously.

Did you teach abroad? If so, where and what inspired you to go?

My only experience teaching abroad is within Japan. I spent a week here along with a week in Taiwan visiting friends in late December 2006. It was within 36 hours of going around Tokyo that I found I really wanted to stay and learn more about the people, culture and language. I also had been working in schools for the previous three years in America so the chance to experience more of Japan and still work with children made Interac a perfect fit for me. A little over eight months later I was working with Interac in Japan and have been here ever since.

What does the future hold for Interac? Any exciting new programs to share?

The Japanese government is strongly pushing for expanded programs within English education. With the Tokyo Olympics coming up in 2020, the country is ready to add nearly 8,000 additional ALT positions in the next few years in an effort to allow Japanese students to speak English at the same level or better than their Chinese and Korean counterparts. This means that along with the growing ALT market, Interac will continue to expand even more than the average of over 100 positions a year since I joined in 2007.

There are many new exciting developments we are working on such as a new set of lesson plans to match the textbooks being released next year as well as a standardized phonics program. On top of that, we are completely redesigning the initial training program and allowing for additional training to be done overseas before coming to Japan as well as after the initial training is finished to give our ALTs the smoothest transition possible into their new schools.

The next five years will be very exciting for the ALT market!

What's it like teaching in Japan? And what's one tip you'd give newbie teachers there?

I really enjoyed my experience teaching and many times when I am observing my teachers at their schools wish I could return to the position. I could speak for hours on end about the wonderful experiences I had and amazing people I met along the way. That's not to say that there were no difficulties along the way, but that should be expected when moving to a country as different as Japan is.

If I had to give one tip it would be to soak everything in and be as outgoing as possible. Even if you come to Japan with less than conversational Japanese ability, you are the one that has to make the initial move. If you do that, nearly everyone will reciprocate and include you in their lives, whether that's the staff in the schools, Japanese friends elsewhere or even the friendly man waiting at the bus stop. Japanese people tend to be a bit more shy than most westerners, especially when considering that communication has to be done in a foreign language. I can guarantee that my simple advice will make your experience in Japan much better.

What's the best story you have from your time working at Interac?

Wow, well there are so many as I alluded to earlier. If I had to choose one, I would mention one of my Tokyo schools. I had the pleasure of teaching at the same school for two years, meaning I taught the same children for those two years over two grade levels. One of my fourth grade classes in my final year actually invited me back along with their homeroom teachers from the previous five years to their sixth grade pre-graduation shaonkai (thank you event).

Not only that, I was asked to make a speech to the students and parents and then again to only the parents at a separate party to thank me for my work as their English teacher. It was an emotional day and one I will never forget. I sometimes still run into my students on the train in Tokyo!

Besides bringing a fun and educational experience to the Japanese classroom, my goal as Managing Consultant and the reason I still work here is to give others the chance to have experiences similar to mine that will change not only their lives forever, but the lives of their students as well. From speaking with my ALTs, many have been able to do that and some even go on to become teacher's in the home countries. That to me is truly rewarding.