From Overseas to Online
Kazumi Holcomb, a native of Japan, shares the story behind developing and teaching Launch’s Japanese I and II courses.
I was born in Japan. My hometown is called Yokohama, which is the second largest city. I went to college also in Yokohama. This is where I met my husband. He was stationed in Japan—there was a naval base by my university. We got married after I graduated. He is from Springfield, so that is why I picked Missouri State for graduate school. First I finished my four years in international studies in Japan, and I finished my masters in public administration at Missouri State.
I love teaching, and I love coaching. In high school I was an exchange student to a high school in Ohio. I played basketball, because that was my passion, and that was the reason I came to the U.S. for the first time. Later I coached basketball at Kickapoo, but then I had my first son born and I decided to focus more on family. I had my second son born two years ago, so I’ve been pretty busy.
I started teaching for Launch last summer. I want to be innovative, and I want to be different. I don’t want to be that teacher who is burned out and doesn’t have passion to interact with students anymore.
I developed the Japanese course myself, and now I teach both Japanese I and II. Just like when I started teaching Japanese in the seated classroom, I had to think: ‘As a language learner, how did I learn? How did I learn English?’ And so I started from there. It was lots of listening first, and then eventually speaking.
When I started developing, I had to record myself a lot. I recorded all of my lectures. I wanted to make sure students had a chance to hear Japanese from a native speaker. Then, from there, I have a lot of assignments where students have to record their voices. I later realized I had to have conversation time as part of some assignments—I really needed to talk to them live—so I started putting those assignments in there.
A lot of time I act almost like a seated course teacher. I contact parents, I contact counselors, I contact anyone who is around that student, and I try to involve them in my course. That kind of sense of community and support around the student is very important. I also teach students how to do recordings, how to create videos and even how to communicate with online instructors. Things like,’We are not robots, so don’t talk to us like we’re a computer!’
Having conferences is actually closer than having students in class. I get to know so many things. Even though these students are taking my class online, they are definitely looking for some type of interaction, and when I provide that, they really appreciate it. When I actually talk to students one to one, during our conferences, it really brings my course alive.