Elgin Heinz Outstanding Teacher Award


Elgin heinz teacher Award

EngageAsia administers the Elgin Heinz Outstanding Teacher Award, which is funded by the United States-Japan Foundation. The Award recognizes exceptional teachers who further mutual understanding between Americans and Japanese. The 2019 award focused on the humanities and the 2020 award is expected to focus on Japanese language. The award consists of a $2,500 monetary award and a $5,000 grant provided by the United States-Japan Foundation. It is named in honor of Elgin Heinz for his commitment to educating students about Asia as well as for the inspiration he has provided to the field of pre-college education.

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2019 Award winner

Ms. Waka Takahashi Brown
Humanities Category

Manager and Instructor for Stanford e-Japan
Stanford University
Stanford, CA

Waka Takahashi Brown is the Manager and Instructor for Stanford e-Japan, a distance-learning course sponsored by the Stanford Program on International and Cross-Cultural Education (SPICE) and currently supported by the Yanai Tadashi Foundation. Stanford e-Japan was initially supported by the United States-Japan Foundation. Through Stanford e-Japan, Waka has engaged Japanese high school students from throughout Japan in an intensive study of U.S. society and culture. Since its first session in 2015, Waka has taught seven cohorts of Stanford e-Japan. In addition, Waka also served from 2003 to 2005 as the inaugural Coordinator and Instructor of the Reischauer Scholars Program (RSP), a national distance-learning course on Japan for high school students across the United States. The RSP was also initially supported by the United States-Japan Foundation.

Since joining SPICE in 2001, Waka has authored numerous curriculum units. In 2004, Waka won the national Franklin R. Buchanan Prize from the Association for Asian Studies for the curriculum unit, Religions and Philosophies in China: Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism, which she authored; and in 2008, Waka won the Buchanan Prize for a second time for the curriculum units, Chinese Dynasties: Parts I and II, which she co-authored. In addition to these units, Waka has authored or co-authored curriculum units on Indonesia, the Beijing Olympics, the Baltic States, Ukraine, Islamic art, Chinese railroad workers in North America, and ethnic minority groups in China, among many others.

She has presented teacher seminars nationally for the National Council for the Social Studies, the National Consortium for Teaching about Asia, the Symposium on Asia in the Curriculum, the East Asia Regional Council of Overseas Schools, and the European Council of International Schools.

Prior to joining SPICE, Waka worked at the Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center at Stanford University. She also taught Japanese at Silver Creek High School in San Jose for two years. Additionally, Waka served as a Coordinator for International Relations (CIR) on the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program from 1995 to 1997.

Waka obtained both her undergraduate and graduate degrees from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, Waka majored in International Relations with concentrations on Asia and Eastern Europe. She studied in Kraków, Poland, during her sophomore year. Waka obtained her Masters in Education from the Stanford Teacher Education Program, obtaining credentials to teach Japanese, English, and Social Studies, as well as a Cross-Cultural Language and Academic Development (CLAD) certification.

Waka shares: “As a Japanese American growing up in Kansas in the 1970s and 80s, and then as a Japanese American woman working in Japan, I’ve felt the need and immediacy for fostering cross-cultural understanding for my entire life. I feel extremely fortunate that I am able to work toward this goal through my professional work. My students and their knowledge and passion humble me. I am constantly in awe of them and their accomplishments. It is a true honor to receive the Elgin Heinz Award, and I am grateful for the opportunity to use these funds to foster connections between the future leaders in U.S.–Japan relations.”

Eligibility Requirements

The award is open to current full-time K-12 classroom teachers of any relevant subject in the United States. There are two award categories, one in the humanities and one in Japanese language. The 2020 award is planned to be awarded only in the Japanese language category (to be determined in late 2019).

Previous award recipients often have over 10 years of teaching experience and have been engaged in teaching their students about Japan for a substantial period of time.  Candidates must demonstrate sustained commitment to improving mutual understanding between Americans and Japanese, and must have made a significant contribution to enhancing students’ knowledge of Japan.

Applicants for the Japanese language category must have excellent command of the Japanese language and may be contacted by members of the selection committee to verify this.

Nomination Procedures

Applicants for the Elgin Heinz Outstanding Teacher Award need not be nominated to apply. However, the Foundation is always seeking to encourage the nation’s top educators to consider applying for the award. Therefore, we welcome nominations of individuals qualified to apply for the Award.

Letters of Nomination should briefly highlight the qualifications of the candidate and must include his/her name, contact information, and indicate the school at which the candidate currently teaches.

EngageAsia, which is administering the award, will accept Letters of Nomination at any time and will inform candidates that they have been nominated for the Award. Those nominated must submit a full application as indicated below.

Nominators should keep in mind the deadline for applications is in early May. Therefore, it is recommended that nominations be submitted by early March in order to provide potential candidates the time needed to compile their applications.

Letters of Nomination should be e-mailed to EngageAsia at: info@engageasia.org

Application Procedures & Deadlines

Applicants must submit the following documents by May 15, 2019 to be considered (please note: all materials must be submitted in one PDF document via e-mail to EngageAsia, the award administrator, at: info@engageasia.org):

1. Cover Sheet that includes the following information:

  • Full name and home address

  • School name and address

  • E-mail and telephone contact information

  • The award category for which you are applying: Japanese Language or Humanities

  • The subjects and grades you currently teach

  • A list of Japan-related programs in which you have participated

  • Names and contact information for those submitting letters of support

2. A narrative (not to exceed three (3) pages typed, double spaced) describing your efforts to further mutual understanding between Americans and Japanese through your classroom teaching. Please describe your classroom atmosphere and your approach to teaching about Japan or Japanese Language. Applicants should also highlight leadership positions held and detail how they have impacted other educators locally and/or nationally.

3. A two-page project proposal and budget describing how you would use the award’s $5,000 project funds to enhance understanding of Japan at your school or in your school district (project funds are typically awarded to the awardees’ school and, since these funds are awarded as a grant, the Foundation reserves the right to amend this portion of the application). For example, such funds could be used to purchase curriculum material on Japan, for field trips to Japan-related organizations, to bring in guest speakers on Japan, for Japanese software, etc.

4. Three letters of support from individuals or organizations familiar with you and your teaching on Japan. A letter from a student explaining how your efforts affected his/her perceptions and understanding of Japan is permissible as a letter of support. One letter must come from the school’s principal or vice principal and must express support for your project proposal in addition to supporting your candidacy for the award. Support letters can be sent under separate cover or included with all application materials.

5. A professional resume
The application should be submitted in one PDF electronically to: info@engageasia.org

Deadline for 2019

Complete applications must be received by EngageAsia on or prior to May 15, 2019 to be considered for the 2019 award.

Review & Selection

A national selection committee administered by EngageAsia will review complete applications received by or on May 15, 2019. The selection committee consists of leaders in the field of education about Japan. The award winners will be announced in the summer of 2019.

Selection Committee

Ms. Patience Berkman

Chair, History Department, Newton Country Day School of the Sacred Heart
2002 Elgin Heinz Outstanding Teacher Award Recipient (Humanities Category)

Dr. Lucien Ellington

Editor, Education About Asia
Director, Asia Program
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Mr. David Janes

Senior Advisor for Institutional Development
Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST)

Mr. Christopher Livaccari

Upper Elementary School Principal, International School of the Peninsula
Senior Advisor, Asia Society

Ms. Margaret Lonzetta

Independent Consultant, International Studies and Global Education

Ms. Mari Maruyama

Executive Director, Oberin Gakuen Foundation

Mr. Norman Masuda

Former Instructional Supervisor of World Languages, Palo Alto High School
2002 Elgin Heinz Outstanding Teacher Award Recipient (Japanese Language Category)

Mr. Gary Mukai

Director, Stanford Program on International and Cross-Cultural Education

Ms. Lynn Parisi

Director, Program for Teaching East Asia
University of Colorado at Boulder

Ms. Leslie (Birkland) Roberts

Japanese Language Consultant
2005 Elgin Heinz Outstanding Teacher Award Recipient (Japanese Language Category)

Mr. Michael Rubin

Former Director, NYC Public Schools Japanese Language Program

Additional information is available on the United States-Japan Foundation’s website here.