Deep in conversation

Thumbnail

Information technology is changing and opening up more possibilities than ever before. Language education is and should evolve with it.

For Akiko Maruoka, learning a language is about more than just uttering words and sentences. “I teach how to express ideas and emotions, and the role that culture plays in effective communication” she says. After 38 years at SCS, Akiko is our longest-serving instructor. She came to Canada from Japan in her early 30s, and began working at Robarts Library at the University of Toronto, managing the Japanese book catalogue. Akiko then earned her Master of Education in Curriculum, Teaching, and Learning through the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), and has been teaching a variety of Japanese language courses ever since.

Teaching runs strong in Akiko’s blood. “Instruction is very natural to me” she says. “Both my parents were teachers, as well as my two siblings. It’s who I am.” Akiko’s career began teaching junior high school in Japan. At the time, very few teachers were female. “Coming to Canada opened doors for me, providing opportunities to grow my teaching abilities” she smiles. “I’m really grateful for this.”

Akiko’s favourite part of teaching is connecting with her learners. “I love seeing their smiling faces, and mixing up my teaching styles” she says. “After all these years, it’s never, ever boring. They elevate my energy.” She also has a strong vision for the future of language instruction. “Information technology is changing and opening up more possibilities than ever before. Language education is and should evolve with it” she asserts. “Language instructors have an important role to play in guiding learners towards useful and reliable online information. But at the end of the day, no computer program or Google app can mimic the connections and contexts that evolve in a classroom.”

When she isn’t busy teaching, Akiko enjoys volunteering at a local seniors’ home. She views it as a way to give back to the country she loves. At 79, some would suggest Akiko should slow down and relax. “My friends say I’m crazy” she laughs. “But what can I say? I love it.”