Education About Asia: Online Archives

Japan in the Elementary School Classroom: An EAA Interview with Jill Fortney

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Teaching About Japan at North Bennington Elementary School

An Interview with Jill Fortney

Jill Fortney is an outstanding elementary schoolteacher. Her work has been recognized by the Five College Center for East Asian Studies at Smith College. In the following interview, Jill offers practical suggestions for fellow teachers.


Jill, tell our readers a bit about yourself and the school in which you teach.


I teach sixth grade in a small, 182 pupil, K-6 school in southwestern Vermont. Basically, the classes are all self-contained with large classes being configured into multi-age groups. North Bennington is a small community that demonstrates a great deal of support for its school and its students.

I’ve taught 20 years—ten years as a K-6 art teacher in Bennington, and the last ten years teaching sixth grade at North Bennington Graded School in North Bennington. In 1993 I attended a Summer Geography Institute at the National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C. That was a real turning point for me professionally. Since that time I’ve given numerous professional workshops within the New England region, on teaching geography, teaching about Japan, and developing learning centers. In the spring of 1997 I won an award for excellence in teaching about Japan from the Sasuga Japanese Bookstore (in Boston), the Boston Children’s Museum, and the Five College Center for East Asian Studies (FCCEAS) at Smith College. In the summer of ’97 I was a Fulbright-Hays Fellow and spent five weeks traveling and studying in Japan with eleven other selected educators. Kathleen Woods Masalski from FCCEAS directed the study abroad program.

JILL A. FORTNEY, an elementary educator and teacher consultant, lives with her husband, who is a high school guidance counselor, and their 17-year-old son in southwestern Vermont. In addition to spending time in Japan, Fortney, along with her family, has camped in their tipi throughout most of the United States.