Arata at Pearson Japan Day teacher award winner

Each year we seek out the most passionate and inspiring English teachers across the globe and celebrate their achievements with the Pearson English Global Teacher Award

One of the 2019 award winners, Arata Nishio, was unfortunately unable to attend the IATEFL conference in Liverpool this year. So we caught up with her at Pearson Teachers Conference in Japan to discover how she supports her students to become better English learners. 

Arata Nishio, 2019 Pearson English Global Teacher Award winner, Asia & Oceania

Arata Nishio is an English teacher from Nagoya Municipal Kikuzato High School in Japan. She saw her students lacked confidence when they spoke English. Her solution was fun and effective, helping them to increase their self-esteem and fluency:

“I’m conducting some online video sessions with some [students in] foreign countries, so that students have exposure to the English speaking environment.”

Seeing a lack of opportunities for students to practise English in their local area, Arata also started a project for students to volunteer as an English speaking tour guide at Nagoya Castle – a national historic site in her region. 

Arata explains that this provides students with a natural context in which to speak English. “I wanted them to build up their confidence by experiencing success.” 

We found out more about the projects she’s been doing and asked her about her insights into English teaching.

Nagoya Castle

How teachers can support their learners better

Arata believes that presentations, discussions and debates are very helpful to use in class.

“I think teachers should provide opportunities for students to discover their strengths and build up confidence.” 

She speaks about how group work helped one particularly shy and quiet student discover his talent at presenting and become a voluntary public speaker and representative for the school.

“I believe through the English activities I did in the class he learned…what kind of learning style fit him,” she says.

Visualizing outcomes for English language learning in the classroom

Arata uses feedback from students to visualize outcomes in the classroom. She explains how challenging it was to receive certain feedback. 

At first, some of her students asked her why they had to do presentations in English when the entire audience was Japanese. Others were concerned about making themselves understood by people from other countries. Arata saw these doubts as opportunities to adapt her teaching and decided her students “needed more real-world settings”. 

She contacted schools in five other countries to organize online video sessions, where students could speak English and do presentations in a more natural context. She was pleased to see they were a great success.

“Students were very excited and they were happy when they were able to make themselves understood.”

As a result, her students’ confidence grew and they could finally see the value of doing English presentations. 

Ways to develop learners’ autonomy

Learner autonomy is fundamental to Arata’s classes, she believes teachers should give students the freedom to take the lead.

“I think to boost the students’ learning autonomy…teachers should provide less instructions and less explanations,” she says. She also believes that teachers should provide topics for presentations and debates that students are interested in and “at which students can use their knowledge and wisdom”. 

Arata talks about one particular video discussion with Finland where the students were given the topic of ‘history’. Students were motivated to do their own research and explore their own Japanese history. And Arata was able to take a step back:

“I just provided key words and phrases and facilitated their group discussions and that was my only job.” 

Helping learners along their English journey

Arata reflects on the journeys of several of her students since taking part in her projects.

“After gaining confidence from the exposure to the… real world English speaking environment, some students started exploring their possibilities,” she says. 

Some have volunteered as English interpreters for the World Cup of Robotic Technology – Robo Cup 2017 Nagoyaand another student, who was particularly shy, went on to apply for Tobitate Study Abroad Initiative. The student was accepted and acknowledged as an exceptional participant, appearing on all the posters and publicity for the following year. 

For Arata, following her students’ journey has been inspiring and rewarding. “I was very excited to see the students’ progress and I myself was encouraged by the students’ efforts to make themselves better,” she says.

Arata has helped create many opportunities for her students that they didn’t think were possible and, with these achievements, we can see why she was chosen for the award. 

Watch the full interview with Arata below:

A word from the judges 

‘I found Arata’s approach to getting her students to transcend their natural reluctance to speak inspiring’ – Jeremy Harmer

Arata was awarded the Pearson English Global Teacher Award for Asia & Oceania because of her efforts in improving student confidence. As judge Jeremy Harmer said, “I found Arata’s approach to getting her students to transcend their natural reluctance to speaking inspiring.” 

The judges were overwhelmed by the passion and enthusiasm from the applicants in 2019. Arata was one of five winners of the Pearson Global Teacher Award, selected from 431 applicants, from 65 countries across 6 continents. 

Here are some of the highlights:

Thank you to Arata Nishio for catching up with us and well done to her and all the other winners. 

Find out how Pablo Santos, winner from North and Central America, has been creating opportunities for his students through Panama’s Bilingüe program.

Applications are now open for the 2020 Pearson English Global Teacher Award!

Apply now for the chance to win a trip to IATEFL or TESOL. 

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