Konnichiwa from Mrs. Ihns

Bringing back lessons from abroad into the classroom


Language connect us all. Ms. Barbara Ihns brought her experiences from Japan back to the classroom, allowing students to connect to Japanese language and culture.

Ms. Ihns initially travelled to Japan from 1988 to 1992 as a middle school teacher. This was the first time she visited the country and she embraced it and continued living there.

“The fact that I was immersed in a culture and a language that I didn’t know was really challenging but I liked the challenge,” Ihns said. “Everything was new to me — taking off your shoes at the door, having rice with every meal, for example.”

During her first year trip, Ms. Ihns taught English to Japanese middle school students. During these times as an English teacher, She learned about the different teaching structure that Japanese students had in their day to day lives compared to the American school system. 

“Students stayed in the classroom, and teachers moved.” Ihns said, “The meals were served in the classroom. Lunch was wheeled in big pots and plates, and students served the food to each other, and they gathered everything up and carted it back to the kitchen.”

During her stay, Ms. Ihns began to incorporate more conversations into her teaching in order to improve students’ abilities to speak English. After her time in Japan, she returned to America to be a teacher in the states, with the goal of recreating the Japanese experience inside an American school and include the conversational aspects of her classes. After starting a Japanese program in a Pennsylvania high school at the start of the 2000s, Ms. Ihns later came to Lyman and started up a new Japanese program for the school. She was able to introduce all new students to the culture and language of Japan. She believed teaching students to use language to express themselves was one of the most important keys to a successful learning environment and continues to strive to improve her teaching.

“I think the real issue for me right now is how do I create Japanese culture in one room?” Ihns said. “How do you make them feel Japanese culture? That’s the real question. 

Ms. Ihns is grateful for her time abroad and hopes it’s an opportunity some of her students will get to do some day as well. She knows some of what she is teaching in the classroom will help them in the big world beyond the halls of high school.

“Languages are the tools of communication,” Ihns said. “So learn more languages and if you visit a new country, learn new expressions. It makes all the difference in being able to talk with people, breaking down those walls, building friendships, “ Learn new phrases, and go visit. Go out more.”

cover photo by Brooke Tiedemann