Riverside teacher to be honored guest in Japan

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Town Crier News Staff

Brenda Hutcheson, Riverside's Gifted and Talented teacher/coordinator, is excited about being selected to take part in the Japan Fulbright Memorial Fund (JFMF) Teacher Program.

Hutcheson was notified she had been accepted earlier in the year and has been preparing for her three week educational trip to Japan. She will leave for Tokyo on Oct. 14.

Hutcheson was selected from a national pool of over 1,700 applicants by a panel of educators to earn this honor. This program allows distinguished primary and secondary school educators in the United States to travel to Japan in an effort to promote greater intercultural understanding between the two nations.

Hutcheson is one of 200 educators chosen to make the October trip.

"I'm proud to represent Arkansas and Riverside School District," Hutcheson said.

Hutcheson heard about the JFMF program through information received at Riverside. She also had talked to a teacher friend who had made the trip.

"When I applied I thought my chances would be one in a million," she said. "I thought being from a smaller school and my age might be a factor against me but I decided to give it "a good ole' Riverside try" and filled out the application."

Hutcheson is a 1968 Lake City High School graduate. She said she was 30 years old when she started teaching. She had worked as an aide and discovered her calling in education.

"I've never regretted my decision to become a teacher," Hutcheson said. "I get just as excited about coming to work today as I did the first day I taught."

She has taught in the Riverside District for 24 years. She taught special education her first three years before moving to the gifted and talented program. She has offices on all campuses.

Like her students, Hutcheson has been doing her homework preparing for her upcoming adventure. She has been doing the required reading and more.

"I want every teacher, staff, and student to know they are part of this trip," Hutcheson said.

She is preparing a photo album of Riverside District's teachers and students to take with her to share while she is visiting the classrooms in Japan. She also plans on taking pictures to share with Riverside students and staff throughout her trip.

"Hopefully, I will have internet access and will take my laptop and webcam and be able to share pictures as I go," she said. "I've never done this but I am learning and if all goes well, I will be communicating with my students from Japan. I want the students to be able to log on and see pictures daily while I am there."

Hutcheson will fly from Memphis to San Francisco. Orientation will be held in San Francisco and she will meet the other teachers making the trip. They will be divided into groups of 20. They will leave San Francisco for a 15 hour flight to Tokyo where they will spend the first week for a practical orientation on Japanese life and culture and meetings with Japanese government officials and educators. They will then travel in groups of 20 to selected host cities where they have direct contact with Japanese teachers and students during visits to primary and secondary schools as well as a teachers college. They will also visit cultural sites and local industries in addition to a brief home stay with a Japanese family. Hutcheson and her team will be going to Kagoshima.

The JFMF Program is sponsored by the Government of Japan and was launched in 1997 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Government Fulbright Program, which has enabled more than 6,000 Japanese citizens to study in the U.S. on Fulbright fellowships for graduate education and research. The Institute of International Education acts as the agency for the Japan Fulbright Memorial Fund to coordinate the recruitment and pre-departure activities of the Teacher Program in the United States.

To date, more than 5,800 primary and secondary educators have visited Japan through the JFMF Teacher Program.

Upon their return, program participants share what they have learned about Japan with their students and communities through a variety of outreach projects.

Hutcheson has specific plans to share her Japan experience with her students and the community. She hosts an International Day each year but plans on elaborating on Japan using information and items she will bring home. She is a volunteer and works at the Lake City Museum. She plans to create an exhibit there for the community to view. She hopes to have ASU exchange students from Japan as guest speakers at Riverside. Her experience will be included in her teaching curriculum for many years to come.

She hopes her experience will remind her students at Riverside wishes and dreams can come true.

"I love all my kids," Hutcheson said. "Working on both campuses with students of all ages I have been privileged to be part of their school years from kindergarten through high school. I am right where I want to be."

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