Japanese Program Coordinator and Lecturer Receives Outstanding Teaching Award

With a strong work ethic and passion for teaching her native language, Eriko Tanaka has the ability to make students feel comfortable and at ease in her classroom.

Ms. Tanaka, Japanese program coordinator and lecturer in the Department of Modern and Classical Language Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences, received one of three 2018 Outstanding Teaching Awards.

The Outstanding Teaching Award honors both full-time and part-time non-tenure track faculty members. Each finalist is nominated by students and peers for being highly motivating, effective and dedicated to teaching.

“I was really surprised when they came in to my class to tell me that I won the award,” Ms. Tanaka says. “I had no idea they would do that. But, of course, I was very happy. As a teacher, it’s so nice to know that your students nominated you. When I read the nomination comments, I was so touched.”

Students were able to submit nomination letters expressing their respect and admiration for a professor of their choice.

“Professor Tanaka is the most enthusiastic person I have ever met,” a student writes in a nomination. “Every morning for the whole semester, never once did Professor Tanaka come to class in a bad mood. If Professor Tanaka ever had a day where she wasn’t feeling well, was tired or just didn’t want to be at work, no one ever knew it.”

Ms. Tanaka is originally from Osaka, Japan, and came to the United States in 1997 to attend graduate school. In 1999, Ms. Tanaka began teaching as a graduate assistant and came to Kent State in 2009.

“My primary goal in teaching is to create a supportive environment for my students, where they feel safe to speak in Japanese without feeling embarrassed or scared,” Ms. Tanaka says. “I want my students to look forward to coming to class and to continue studying Japanese beyond elementary level.”

As Japanese can be difficult to learn, a student describes Ms. Tanaka’s teaching as “extremely effective.” The student explains that Ms. Tanaka is willing to help and answer questions at the end of class.

“Although there was a lot of information to learn in a short amount of time, Professor Tanaka always taught the material several different ways,” the student writes in a nomination. “Leaving time for questions and making sure the students understood clearly. I am convinced no one could do the job better.”

Students praise Ms. Tanaka for taking a personal interest in her students. Ms. Tanaka is said to spend time outside of the classroom helping students if that is what it takes to make sure her students are succeeding.

A nomination letter from a student says, “I once told her that I couldn’t believe how much patience she had, teaching her native language to beginners. Her response was ‘I really love my job. Everyone has to start somewhere, and all my students are great. I really love what I do.’”

On Oct. 19, Ms. Tanaka and two other Outstanding Teaching Award recipients were honored at the University Teaching Council’s Celebrating College Teaching conference luncheon and awards ceremony.

For more information about the University Teaching Council and the Outstanding Teaching Award, visit www.kent.edu/utc/teaching-awards.

UPDATED: Monday, May 20, 2024 08:46 PM
Lexi Marco