Honors College employee wins Japanese teaching award


Alison Spencer, academic coordinator for the ACU Honors College, won the Japanese Exchange and Teaching (JET) award to teach in Japan for the 2016-17 school year.

Spencer earned her undergraduate degree in psychology and master’s degrees in psychology and higher education at ACU.

The JET program, organized by the Japanese government, allows English-speaking college graduates to teach English in the Japanese school system. The program currently allows 4,786 exchange teachers to serve in about 1,000 local organizations.

“There are two big components: the intercultural exchange and then the teaching,” Spencer said. “It’s important that you competently speak English and also that you’re willing to engage with culture.”

Spencer and her husband both applied for the program because they like travel and wanted to get more experience for their careers. Nathan Spencer, ACU admissions counselor, was accepted as an alternate to the JET program, which means he may get a position if one becomes available. JET will provide Alison a position in a Japanese school, a salary and travel expenses.

“The more we looked into Japan we realized that we really were excited about the cultural aspects,” Spencer said.

She learned about the JET program several years ago from Dr. Jason Morris, dean of the Honors College and director of the Office of Major Scholarships. After looking into the program, Spencer began the rigorous application process in November 2015.

Morris helped Spencer apply by writing a letter of recommendation for her and editing her application essay. In February, the Spencers traveled to Houston to a Japanese consulate, the second step in the application process. They were notified that Alison was shortlisted and Nathan was an alternate in March. They will fly to Japan in July.

“We’re excited that Alison has accomplished this great achievement, but she’ll be really missed in our college as well,” Morris said.

Through ACU, Spencer has connections with two alumni who live in Japan. She also said her experience at ACU in education, study abroad and the Honors College all prepared her to receive this international award.

“ACU has given me all the tools to get this,” Spencer said. “From day one, my educational experience has been really top notch.”

Spencer said she hopes to build relationships in Japan and learn more about Japanese culture. Program members, called JETs, receive support through training and a local supervisor who helps them settle into the country. She hopes the experience will help her career goal to one day work in a higher education study abroad program.