Sensei 101: An Intro to Mayumi Steinmetz

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Steinmetz stands in front of her calligraphy
Photo by David Steinmetz

By Adelia Sindunata

When Steinmetz was an elementary school student, she dreamed to be a teacher. Steinmetz saw her father and grandmother, who were teacher themselves, as her role model. Yet, she didn’t know that teacher will be her profession in the future back then.

But, as Steinmetz grew up, her dream changed multiple times. When Steinmetz was in middle school, she was a member of manga club in her school. She decided that she would like to be a mangaka; however, she gave up.

“The life [of a mangaka] was tough.” Steinmetz said. “We have to draw a lot, and we didn’t get enough sleep.”

Steinmetz decided to change her dream – she was aspiring to be an ambassador that “makes a bridge between different cultures”. Steinmetz left Tokyo, her hometown, to study at University of Delaware, majoring in History. After she graduated with a Bachelor’s degree, 21-year-old Steinmetz got enrolled in University of Oregon and pursued her Master’s degree in Asian Studies. Later, Steinmetz was awarded a Graduate Teaching Fellowship scholarship, which means she didn’t need to pay tuition, but in exchange, she has to be a teacher’s assistant for second year conversation Japanese class.

That was the starting point of her teaching career.

“I still remember that the professor asked me to write the exam questions on a paper, because my professor were not confident of his Japanese handwriting which was the old, cursive, style.” said Steinmetz, giggled. “Meanwhile, my Japanese handwriting was more like the young people’s type of handwriting.”

Steinmetz started teaching at SCC in 1993. According to Steinmetz, her goal as a teacher is to “get students to open their eyes, and see things from different perspective.”

“Learning another language is a good way to get your eyes opened,” said Steinmetz, “Because once you learned a new language, you will get to understand the culture too.”

Unlike other language teachers, whose biggest challenge is to teach a completely new language to foreigners, Steinmetz’ biggest challenge is to get students continue to take the next level of the Japanese language courses.

“Most students take a language class for one quarter just to fulfill the 5 credits for Humanities, but then, everything will be forgotten later,” Steinmetz said. “I appreciate the students who complete at least a year of language courses, because I can see their progress and it motivates me to keep teaching.”

Other than being a teacher, Steinmetz is also an advisor for SCC Japanese Culture Club. According to Steinmetz, being a club advisor is fun because she can “enjoy time together with students and be a part of them.” Her big goal for the club this year is to make a club t-shirt.

“It is fun to have a memorabilia that is designed by students for students” said Steinmetz, “So that’s why we’re currently hosting a Japanese Club t-shirt design contest right now.”

Violet Laucirica, the club president, met Steinmetz for the first time when she took her Japanese Class. She took two years of Japanese classes and Japanese history classes from Steinmetz. According to Laucirica, she picked Steinmetz as her club advisor because “she has a lot of valuable insight as a teacher, and as a native Japanese.”

Laucirica remembers her first impression about Steinmetz.

“She was really kind and had the coolest style, with colorful feathers in her hair and an amazing artistic sense of dress,” Laucirica said. “I still aspire to be as stylish as Mayumi sensei!”
Rose Janif, a second year student taking Japanese 121 class taught by Steinmetz, stated her reason for taking the class.

“I am a big fan of anime, and I watch it all the time,” said Janif, “I decided that I should learn more about the language, so I take this Japanese class.”

Meanwhile, Matthew Gibbs, an Electrical Engineering student who also takes Japanese 121, has a slightly different reason.

“This class seems challenging.” Gibbs said. “I am someone who only takes challenges occasionally, but this one seems different. This class turns out to be interesting.”

Both Gibbs and Janif agreed that Steinmetz has a good way of teaching. According to Janif, Steinmetz takes the time to let students really understand the lesson. Gibbs added that Steinmetz “has a very lively style in the classroom.”

Other than Japanese language classes, Steinmetz also taught several East Asian History classes about Japanese Civilization. However, in Spring 2017, Steinmetz will teach general East Asian History as a part of Interdisciplinary Studies, together with Neal Vasisth.

“I am super excited about this – I can’t wait to see my future students!” said Steinmetz.

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