Sponsored by the United States–Japan Foundation, the Elgin Heinz Teacher Award recognizes exceptional teachers who further mutual understanding between Americans and Japanese. The award is presented annually to pre-college teachers in two categories, humanities and Japanese language. It is named in honor of Elgin Heinz for his commitment to educating students about Asia as well as for the inspiration he has provided to the field of pre-college education.
SPICE’s Reischauer Scholars Program Manager and Instructor Naomi Funahashi has won the 2017 Elgin Heinz Teacher Award for her teaching excellence with the Reischauer Scholars Program (RSP), an online course named in honor of former Ambassador to Japan Edwin O. Reischauer that introduces Japan and U.S.–Japan relations to high school students in the United States. Funahashi formally accepted the award at Stanford University on November 20, 2017.
In his opening comments, David Janes, Director of Foundation Grants and Assistant to the President, United States–Japan Foundation, who hosted the ceremony, praised Funahashi, explaining why she is so deserving of the distinction: “Like Ambassador Reischauer, Naomi knows how global education at the high school level can transform kids for life, making them better leaders for the future.”
Comments from the Honorable Jun Yamada, Consul General of Japan, were shared by Maiko Tamagawa, Advisor for Educational Affairs, Consulate General of Japan in San Francisco. Consul General Yamada noted, “Ms. Funahashi is indeed an extraordinary educator. Her dedication and commitment to inspiring and empowering young Americans to become experts on Japan is an invaluable contribution to the promotion of mutual understanding between our two countries.” Consul General Yamada, who serves on the advisory committee of the RSP, also graciously hosted a dinner at his residence in honor of Funahashi in July 2017, shortly after the announcement of the award.
SPICE Director Gary Mukai, who nominated Funahashi for the award, commented that “Naomi is extremely dedicated to her students, and I hear regular praise from her students, including those who have matriculated to Stanford. Elgin would have rave reviews of her interdisciplinary approach to teaching… Because of Naomi, the original RSP goal of creating a new generation of leaders in the U.S.–Japan relationship has become a reality.”
Former RSP student and recent Stanford graduate Aryo Sorayya spoke next and thanked Funahashi for extending herself to students far beyond the RSP’s course requirements themselves. Sorayya spoke not only about Funahashi’s careful attention to students’ work but also her sincere interest in their college plans and careers.
Also in attendance were former Ambassador to Japan Michael Armacost; many Stanford scholars—including Takeo Hoshi, Kenji Kushida, and Phillip Lipscy—who contribute lectures, lead online “virtual classrooms,” and/or serve as principal investigators of the RSP; former recipients the Elgin Heinz Teacher Award Norman Masuda and Saya Okimoto McKenna; and members of Funahashi’s family, including her mother Jan Funahashi, husband Rich Lee, and three-year-old son Akira, hopefully a future RSP student in 2030.
Funahashi was born in Tokyo and grew up moving between the United States and Japan. Naomi has resided in the San Francisco Bay Area since 2000, joining SPICE in 2005. She is a graduate of Brown University (BA), San Francisco State University (teaching credential), and the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (M.Ed.). She has served as Manager and Instructor of the RSP since joining SPICE.
Find more information on the Elgin Heinz Teacher Awards online