Teachers Helping Teachers actively promoting language teacher education

Peter John Wanner, Graduate School of Cultural Studies, Tohoku University


Teachers Helping Teachers (THT) was founded by the late William Balsamo and members of the Himeji City Chapter of JALT in 2004, first operating as an independent organization and later gaining official JALT SIG status. THT is dedicated to assisting fellow educators and students in various developing countries of the Asia Pacific region by providing high quality seminars and workshops by experienced language teachers with knowledge of practical and friendly approaches for teaching foreign languages. THT also provides in-service workshops for teachers who wish to both experience the culture and methods used in another country as well as to share their knowledge through actual teaching of students at various levels from the initial to tertiary education levels.

THT started its first series of seminars in Bangladesh in 2005. Every year since then the organization has initiated a new program, each in a different developing country, and currently has five programs scheduled for 2010. In March 2011,a pilot program will begin in India, bringing to six the yearly full teacher training programs THT has in operation. The success of these programs is due to dedicated Delegate Leaders and Assistant Delegate Leaders, as well as the delegates who volunteer their time and effort as presenters and pay for their expenses, including airfare and lodging, in order to attend THT seminars.

The March/April 2010 issue of The Language Teacher features an article about our yearly program in Vietnam, which took place on the second weekend of June for three days. This year we will be celebrating our fifth anniversary in that country by sending eight experienced language education delegates from Japan, China, and Kyrgyzstan, illustrating the fact that THT draws on teacher trainers from countries throughout Asia.

In Lao People’s Democratic Republic, in March 2010, the simple, gracious Lao hospitality warmly touched the hearts of all participants in the 2010 THT Lao Program. This year as with last year volunteers could chose to work with teachers in a country high school 19 kilometers from Vientiane or with Professors teaching at Lao American College. The high school program, co-organized with the WIG Welfare Group was outstandingly successful; three of the six volunteers had participated in the program last year and were back for more! This was the fourth year that THT has held a program in Laos. The highlights of the high school program included working with 38 trainee English Teachers from the National University of Laos, and home staying in a country village setting with local secondary school teachers of English. Tim’s host prepared breakfast from a freshly-plucked chicken and a soup with magical ingredients that he enjoyed immensely. Cecilia was much loved by all the babies of the village. Deborah’s host cooked food without chili peppers for the best meal she has had in years. In the words of our hosts, “Yoc Yoc,” or cheers, and thanks for your amazing hospitality, we will be back next year! No wonder Luang Prabang made it to the top of the New York Times lists of best tourist destinations.

This year, from 29 July until 1 August, 17 delegates will spend two days in the Philippines giving seminars to 500 junior high and high school teachers, making this THT’s largest delegation to date. Again, the presenters, experienced language teachers holding master’s or doctor’s degrees, are from four different Asian countries: China, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Japan. Eight of these delegates will then travel to a village elementary school in Banilad, Mindoro (3-4 August) and a town elementary school (5 August) in Calapan, Mindoro where they will teach children English through various subjects such as reading, history, and English; meet members of the village community; and have a taste of family life. As well as teaching and observing classes, delegates will participate in discussions about teaching methods and approaches, and exchange ideas with local teachers.

THT focuses not only on teachers but also on students, many of whom eventually become teachers themselves. The Bill Balsamo Scholarship Fund offers financial aid to college students and, in certain cases, high school students who are working their way toward college. The Scholarship Fund, which relies on donations, is separate from the JALT THT-SIG Affiliate Fund that handles membership fees. Every year, THT Foundation, with the President acting as the director of the Bill Balsamo Scholarship Fund, suggests possible THT programs in need of support. This fiscal year, THT will give up to 100,000 yen to needy college students and future college students in developing countries.

The effect the scholarship program is having on students in developing countries can already be discerned. Students who have worked as facilitators for delegates in Vietnam have expressed their inspiration and desire to pursue their dreams because of influence from outstanding lectures by THT professors who presented there. Some of these students eventually obtained their degrees with some becoming teachers and others moving on to higher education. One student who received a certificate of excellence and graduated in June 2008 is now a graduate student at Tohoku University, Japan, and is pursuing a master’s degree. She will also be one of the Teacher Delegates for the Philippine seminars and in-service workshops at the village and town schools this year from 29 July through 8 August, 2010. She will be the first delegate volunteer whose higher education was almost completely sponsored by THT. In the future, she plans to return to Vietnam to teach and to help increase educational opportunities for the people in rural areas.

By helping a student to become a teacher, THT also helps the students of that teacher. If teachers helped by THT eventually begin to train other teachers, then the ripple effect will spread even wider. THT is working to build this pyramid by reaching out to teachers and students in six developing countries. To continue to grow, THT needs dedicated volunteers and Delegate Leaders to help oversee and run the various programs now in place, and to develop new programs.

Below are the Delegate Leaders (DL) and Assistant Delegate Leaders (ADL) who are helping THT develop better language teaching programs in various countries:

  • Laos: Chris Ruddenklaus (DL)
  • Vietnam: Peter Wanner (DL), Joseph Tomei (ADL)
  • Bangladesh: Pat Dougherty (DL)
  • Kyrgyzstan: Brent Jones (DL), Roger Palmer (ADL)
  • Philippines: Peter Wanner (DL), April Alcazar (DL), Cecilia Silva (ADL), Diem Thi Tran Thi (ADL), Melvin Jabar (ADL)
  • India: Peter Wanner (DL)

THT publishes four online newsletters that can be accessed from the THT homepage at <www.tht-japan.org>. It also publishes a hard copy, refereed journal that contains, among other interesting articles, reports by delegates about the seminars they have attended in the THT program countries.

THT SIG is an affiliate of JALT and welcomes teachers who wish to contribute to the organization as members. THT also welcomes donations to help support our scholarships abroad. We have managed to raise enough for scholarships for this fiscal year, but need more to support the continuation of these scholarships next year. Those wishing to donate to the fund may do so through Pay Pal or by Direct Deposit to Yuucyo Ginko Bank Account (The Postal Bank Account):

  • Option 1: Pay Pal to the following address: <thtjalt@gmail.com>.
  • Option 2: By direct deposit into the THT SIG Account (contact  <thtjalt@gmail.com> for this information):

Please contribute to THT by becoming a THT member or sending a donation to the Bill Balsamo Scholarship Fund of THT Foundation. Contributors to the scholarship fund of 3,000 yen or more will receive a free copy of the THT journal (1,500 yen). THT looks forward to hearing from prospective delegates. Please contact THT at <thtjalt@gmail.com>.

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