Heading to Japan

Fatoumata Diallo ’19 earns opportunity to explore teaching, culture

Fatoumata Diallo ’19 has been selected as an assistant language teacher for the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program. The highly competitive employment opportunity allows young professionals to live and work in cities, towns and villages throughout Japan.

For Diallo, who has been studying Japanese since high school, the award is the perfect way to deepen her long-held interest in the country and to indulge her passion for teaching and her desire to learn about people and other cultures.

Assistant language teachers work in public and private schools, boards of education and government offices throughout Japan. Although she is awaiting her specific location and assignment, in general her duties will include helping lead Japanese teachers in foreign language classes, preparation of class materials and participating in local international exchange activities.

“The JET program is an opportunity for me to use my educational grounding and experiences teaching to help others access the opportunities that come with acquiring English language skills that expand borders,” said Diallo, who is an anthropology major. “It will also give me a chance to learn from the students and teachers I work with there while engaging with a very different culture and language.”

Diallo, a native of the Bronx, N.Y., is a first-generation American born to parents from Mali and the Ivory Coast in West Africa. She first began studying Japanese when she was in high school participating in a college readiness program that provided an opportunity for her to travel to Japan. At Wheaton she interned for three months in Japan at the Consulate of The Republic of The Gambia in Nagoya in summer 2018 as a Davis Fellow, leading the consulate’s online presence and serving as a Japanese-to-English translator, among other duties.

“Japan’s advanced education allows people, especially students, access to many opportunities to be connected with each other as well as the world. I want to be a part of the mission of unification,” said Diallo, who has a personal mission of trying to improve the American education system so that it has an equal impact for all students.

“JET is one of the many doors I will go through in my goal of trying to close the education gap and reform any historical inequalities,” said Diallo, who is a student assistant for the Wheaton Center for Collaborative Teaching and Learning.

Her Wheaton courses, internships and extracurricular activities have prepared her well for the challenge.

She interned for two summers in 2016 and 2017 with the Breakthrough Collaborative in Boston and New York City, which works to provide equitable access to higher education for students and prepares teaching fellows to work in the education field. This is where she said she experienced firsthand the impact that teachers can have on youths. She also figured out that she wants to be the person who helps teachers succeed in supporting their students.

Through the JET experience “I wanted to explore and examine how top nations like Japan run their education system and how their educators are supported, in the hopes of bringing best practices back to America,” she said.

Diallo is co-captain of the Stomping Out Loud Everytime (S.O.L.E.) step team; senior advisor for the theme residence for women of color, Renaissance House; and a teaching assistant for “Introduction to Anthropology.” She also is the co-founder of the Queer and Trans People Of Color club and was a preceptor her sophomore year.

She points to her experience as a Posse Scholar as being a big part of her success, including having Associate Professor of Hispanic Studies Montserrat Pérez-Toribio as a Posse mentor.

“The Posse connection over the years has helped expand my support system,” Diallo said. “Outside of my Posse, the impactful family I created with the members of S.O.L.E. and Reni [Renaissance House], along with the other affinity groups on campus were always challenging me to teach as well as learn. The people I surrounded myself with believed in me and had such high expectations of me that helped me push to reach my goal.”

She looks forward to fostering new connections in Japan.

“I really want to explore Japan and not only have connections with my students but also with the people that I will be having daily interactions with,” she said. “I want to volunteer in a nearby community center and help tutor kids and start a club where I can teach my students as well as other people in the community to express themselves through arts.

“Being a JET teaching fellow will give me a new perspective to learn from as an educator. In turn, I want to use my own unique skills and background to help Japanese students access the English language, and in doing so, contribute to a multicultural dialogue that is beneficial to us all.”