Japanese Ministry of Education takes interest in counseling program

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Harry Paul

Teachers and counselors from Japan converse with each other and enjoy food at a luncheon. The guidance department and administrators held a luncheon for the Japanese Ministry of Education, visiting to observe guidance and counseling programs.

Lena Kogan, Staff Writer

Students and administrators welcomed representatives of the Japanese Ministry of Education who visited the district in order to learn about social and counseling programs. On Oct. 17, administrators and staff hosted a luncheon in the Commons for counselors and teachers from Japan.

“They have some issues, very serious concerns, with their younger people,” said guidance director Mr. Hank Hardy.  “They felt that the more traditional methods that they used were not meeting the students’ needs. The teachers and counselors from Japan said that they had done research on the surrounding schools and we had been told that we are an outstanding model for counseling programs and support for our students. We were one of the top schools for them to look at in order to get a model to work from.”

The purpose of this trip was to observe American philosophies in their counseling programs in order to improve Japanese schools. As part of a tour of various schools throughout New York State, the ministry chose Port Washington School District as a suburban school district to observe.

It’s really an honor to have been chosen. They told us that we are known for our counseling and anti-bullying programs,” said Ms. Karen Sloan, President of the Board of Education.

As head of the Diversity Committee, Assistant Principal Dr. Brad Fitzgerald organized various activities for the school’s guests. Educators began their visit with a tour of the building, various areas of which were marked with Japanese signs. The school presented them with welcome packets in Japanese, which described the school’s various programs. There was then a gift exchange between the Japanese delegates and the Schreiber administrator

“The Japanese are very big on gift exchanges,” said Dr. Fitzgerald. “The FBLA club, which is our business club, donated many gifts.”

After the gift exchange, the school held a luncheon in the Student Commons. Mr. Hiro Ishikawa and Mr. Peter Faccibene, owners of Shiro of Japan, a hibachi and sushi restaurant, donated food, and seniors Natasha Talukdar and Halam Kim provided musical accompaniment.

“It was a very rich exchange between the Port Washington faculty and these educators from the Japanese Ministry of Education,” said Dr. Fitzgerald.

Sophomore Issei Kohama assisted during the event as a Japanese translator. Following the luncheon, teachers and staff members dedicated two hours to several workshops.

“Mary Visel of Pupil Personnel talked about how we support students with unique needs,” Mr. Hardy said. “We did a presentation on that day on the Dignity Act and the steps we’ve taken, and how that would be something they would hear as they go along.”

School officials organized programs that showcased K-12 counseling programs. Japanese educators visited Manorhaven, Sousa, Guggenheim, and Weber. Each school prepared a special series of lesson plans for the day the officials visited.

The goal of the event was to help the Japanese delegates learn from the school’s modern and unique approach to counseling programs that focus on individual needs. Japanese educators conducted a similar visit ten years ago, and district staff members traveled to Japan to collaborate with the educators and exchange ideas.

“The exchange is really gorgeous, but also I think they went away with a very clear impression about some of our preventative programs to help deter bullying and to better manage students with certain emotional distractions,” Dr. Fitzgerald said.