Silver Chips Online

Zoll, Yoko

By Sarah Harper, Online News Editor
December 9, 2011
Name: Yoko Zoll
Department: Foreign Language
Came to Blair in: 2007
Classes Taught: Japanese Level 2/3
Education: B.A. from Kansai Gakuin University, M.Ed from University of Hawaii
Previous Jobs: Taught at University of Maryland (UMD), Translator for Broadcasting Corporation, Online Coursewriter
Hobbies: reading, writing, traveling

The overhead fluorescent lights, reflected in her framed glasses, waver as she leans forward towards the computer. She brushes some of her dark hair away from her temples and quickly punches her password into the keyboard before settling in her chair.

Zoll grew up in a city called Okayama in the south of Japan. "Itís an average size, about the same as the District of Colombia," she says, gesturing with her hands. She recalls that from an early age, the English language fascinated her. "All students in Japan are required to start learning a second language in middle school. English appealed to me because it is the most dominant, major language in the world," she says.

Later, Zoll attended Kansai Gakuin University in Osaka. She was first introduced to one of her favorite books, "The Great Gatsby," while taking a course on American literature. More importantly, the college offered her an opportunity to experience Western culture. "I was one of the two students selected for an exchange program between my school and San Jose University," Zoll says.

After returning to Osaka and receiving an undergraduate degree in English, Zoll became a translator and interpreter for foreign guests at a local television broadcasting station. Two years later, she moved to Hawaii and received a Masterís degree in education. After her husband was offered a job at the National Institute of Health, Zoll moved permanently to the area and began to teach the first online Japanese courses at the University of Maryland, later switching to high school classes.

Already, Zoll believes her students have established a lasting connection to the Japanese language. In November of 2009, Blair students were able to hold a teleconference with students from four major cities in Japan. Zoll was able to see her students ask and answer questions and carry on an authentic conversation.

Just a month before the teleconference, Japanese students had visited Blair for a day and were given tours of the school by Zollís classes. As is customary, the children from Japan had brought small gifts for their host students. The Blair students were embarrassed that they didnít have anything to give in return, so Zoll came up with a solution. "After they left, we ended up sending a big box of presents and letters to thank them," she says.

Since then, several of the Japanese students have continued to correspond with their host student at Blair. The entire exchange was so positive that the Foreign Language Department has continued organizing visits for Japanese students to Blair.

As a whole, Zoll is thankful to be a part of the Japanese program at Blair. "Only four schools in Montgomery County offer the program, so itís a rare opportunity for my students," she says. "Not many people can speak Japanese and itís one of the most difficult languages to master, so it can automatically set you apart from others."

But the perks of teaching in such a singular language program Ė which include smaller and fewer classes, more travel opportunities and individualized interactions with other cultures Ė are not what keep Zoll on her daily commute between Paint Branch and Blair. In fact, Zollís proudest moments are when past students come back to thank her. "My students seem to really like the language and want to continue their studies in college," she says. "That is probably the most rewarding part for me: to see students succeed."