Alumna gains teaching experience overseas

Ivy Tech Community College–Northeast can now lay claim to its very own rising star in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Cindy Joley, a 2009 Early Childhood Education alumna, relocated to Japan in 2010 when her husband, Dan, accepted a position as a U.S. history teacher and head football coach at the American high school on Yokosuka Naval Base in Yokosuka.

Last September, Joley herself landed a teaching position, but at the other end of the education spectrum: preschool. Her employer, Hayama International School, follows a year-round calendar model and provides instruction in English for students from the age of two until third grade. The student body is about evenly split between Americans and Japanese, with most of the American children being military dependents and many of them having one Japanese parent, she said.

The school overlooks scenic Sagami Bay and is a short distance from the nation’s capital. “We are about 20 miles from downtown Tokyo, and we are considered part of the Tokyo megalopolis,” Joley said. Approximately 40 million people live in the Tokyo metropolitan area. 

Population density aside, there are far greater differences between Tokyo and Fort Wayne—differences that influence Joley’s interactions in and out of the classroom.

She is experiencing a higher student-to-teacher ratio than what she is accustomed to in the States. “I can expect to max out at 15 children in my class with no teaching assistant here,” she said. “When I worked in Ivy Tech’s Head Start program, we had 17 students with one lead teacher and two assistants, plus a kitchen worker. This large class size has been hard to get used to.”

Another noticeable adjustment has been her teacher-parent communication strategy since her students arrive and depart independently via a school bus. “As the classroom teacher, it is hard not to have daily, face-to-face communication with the parents of this age group. I use email to communicate with them, sending out a weekly newsletter and other reminders,” she said.

Fortunately, there is a silver lining to the challenges Joley is experiencing, or perhaps a silver-lined education planner to be more precise. “Although we follow a curriculum, we are not bound by standards. We have a lot of creative freedom to deliver our lessons,” she noted.

She added that Ivy Tech prepared her well for her career. “The principal was very impressed by my portfolio because it contained a lot of information and so many examples of my work,” she said. “Many of my early childhood classes at Ivy Tech required me to create ‘teacher-made’ activities. I am so glad I have had that experience because I can’t just drive to the local teacher supply store now that I live in Japan. All of the supplies and books in the stores are in Japanese.”

Joley’s ingenuity is likely what helped her earn the School of Education’s Outstanding Student Award at her graduation—a measure of competence that Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Education Lois Kaufmann-Hunsberger was quick to touch upon.

“Her commitment to the field of early childhood education, responsiveness to individual children, thoughtful processing of her experiences and attention to detail created a tremendously rewarding experience for both of us,” said Kaufmann-Hunsberger, who Joley regards as her prime mentor at Ivy Tech.

“Perhaps we will be blessed with her involvement in our Early Childhood Education department again someday,” Kaufmann-Hunsberger added.

Rising stars can be difficult to catch, however.

Joley at Hayama International school during morning greeting and circle time.

Joley with Japanese Samurai warrior.