Thomas Jefferson

High School | Home of the Spartans

Exchanging Experiences

Posted 04/16/2019 by Erin Maloof

The entire class from Chiben High School gathers around Mr. Jackson for a group photo. photo courtesy of Kyler Jackson

Thomas Jefferson High School welcomed a class of Japanese students from Chiben High School in Nara, Japan into the community for the two weeks leading up to spring break.

As one of the few schools in DPS with a Japanese program, Thomas Jefferson High School has welcomed exchange students from Japan for the past few years. Last year, the TJ community hosted four exchange students from Hokkaido. This year however, the number jumped up to fourteen students from Nara.

Japanese teacher Kyler Jackson created the award winning Japanese program here at TJ and also helped organize the exchange program. He has been teaching for over 22 years, with 10 of those years at Thomas Jefferson as a Spanish and the Japanese teacher. Yoriko Inuue is the English teacher at Chiben High School in Nara. She was excited to be a part of this unique experience and program.

The students each stayed with a host family so that they were fully immersed in the American experience. The Japanese students attended classes at Thomas Jefferson with their host students every day. Some traveled to the mountains and saw sights like Red Rocks and Dinosaur Ridge. The host families took the students around Denver and showed them everything Colorado had to offer. They all ate the same food as the host family, trying a variety of new dishes they may of never had before. Mexican food quickly became a new favorite among the students. American candy was also a point of interest for them and many students are returning to Japan with suitcases full of snacks and candies for their family and friends back home to enjoy.

One of the biggest differences the students noticed was how school is structured. Many of the students described American high school as being similar to Japanese university. “It is very fun and feels very free.” said exchange student Rena Maeda. “I like newspaper class because you get to use the computer and I really like the teacher. Also, every student is very different and I like that.” CCT teacher Eileen Adair responded and said: “I love having exchange students in the mix. It is fun to see them interact with our students. What a great experience for all involved to have a different perspective on education and culture.”

Most host families will agree that hosting one of the Japanese exchange students was an incredibly fun and uplifting experience. They were all incredibly polite, kind, and eager to learn everything they could while they were here. Rena Maeda and Kano Tanio cooked okonomiyaki which is a traditional Japanese dish made with cabbage, eggs, rice flour, and a variety of fun spices and sauces. Being able to learn more about the students as individuals and about the culture of Japan was an added benefit to being a host family. Students also brought a myriad of fun gifts and foods for their host families to enjoy as a way of saying thank you. Stay tuned into the Spartan Edition this time next year to sign up to be a host family!