Smith-Cotton students, teachers breaking down language barriers

By Lexi Venable - Smith-Cotton High School

Fumiya Matsuzaki

Mirai Ito

Being the new student at school can be intimidating at times, especially when you are in a new country.

Smith-Cotton High School currently has two foreign exchange students, Fumiya Matsuzaki and Mirai Ito, both from Japan. Although both students can understand some words in English, they are not yet fluent, which can create some difficulties when it comes to education in the United States.

Chad Harter, who teaches math at Smith-Cotton, has both Matsuzaki and Ito in class. Having taught foreign exchange students in the past, Harter did not have much of a reaction when he found out he would be teaching students who did not fluently speak English. “I’ve been in their situation,” he said.

Harter has traveled to many places where he was among some of the few English speakers, including villages in Senegal with his church, and Kiev, where the majority of people spoke Russian and Ukrainian. Harter explained that when it comes to teaching these students, instructors need to continue speaking normally, because the students came here to soak in U.S. culture. So Harter teaches Matsuzaki and Ito just as he would any other student.

“Math is a universal language in itself,” Harter said.

Overall, Matsuzaki and Ito are achieving at a high level in his classes. While math may come easy, other subjects tend to be more challenging.

“I understand algebra, but everything not using numbers is hard,” Matsuzaki said.

Ashley Stees, who teaches both Matsuzaki and Ito in English class, said she is impressed because it takes a lot of courage to do what they are doing.

“I’ve started to see different students take a leadership position and help them with their work,” she added.

Annabelle Lorenz, a junior at Smith-Cotton, has reached out to Matsuzaki to help him learn cursive letters.

“At first I was hesitant to talk to him because he didn’t know me, but I really wanted to learn more about him,” Lorenz said.

Stees has also reached out to Melissa Lackey, Smith-Cotton’s ESOL teacher, to help create new teaching methods that may be beneficial in the future. Stees said it has been a neat experience, and overall it is helping her grow as a teacher.

Fumiya Matsuzaki Matsuzaki

Mirai Ito Ito

By Lexi Venable

Smith-Cotton High School

Lexi Venable is a student at Smith-Cotton High School.

Lexi Venable is a student at Smith-Cotton High School.

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