Later this month, a visit from a group of 20 Japanese high school students will mark the 30th anniversary of the Takatori Kokusai Exchange program between Shaker Heights High School and Takatori-Kokusai High School. Takatori-Kokusai High School, located in central Japan’s Nara Prefecture, is a magnet school geared toward students who want to study languages, specifically Chinese, French, Spanish, Korean or English.
The Takatori Exchange program began in the spring of 1988 when retired Shaker Heights High School social studies teacher Terry Pollack created an Asian Studies class to emphasize a cross-cultural understanding between Japan and other Asian countries and the United States and to draw on the knowledge of local experts. Ever since, the exchange has happened on even years, with a group of Japanese students visiting Cleveland and a group of Shaker students returning to Nara.
The exchange group will visit with students from both Beachwood High School and Shaker Heights High School who attend a Wednesday night Asian Studies class taught by Individuals & Societies teacher Andrew Glasier and Language and Literature teacher Molly Miles. “We try to show them a little bit of what makes our community great and also about how the schools are so different,” Mr. Glasier says. For example, in Japanese schools, students are not allowed to use cell phones and they remain in the same classroom all day (the teachers switch rooms). Also, in addition to their daily learning, students in Japan are responsible for all custodial duties.
A welcome assembly is planned for the Takatori students on Friday, March 16. The following week, the students will join their Shaker peers on March 21 at a Cavs game. Then in June, a group of Shaker and Beachwood students from the Asian Students class will travel to Nara.
Mr. Glasier says the program continues to live up to its original mission. “The last time we were in Nara, the kids were all hugging each other and crying before they left,” he says. “Originally, I thought that the trip to the city was going to be exciting, but we found the opposite to be true —the best time was spending time with the families and getting to know them as people.”