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Time to teach: Aimee Jones-Suematsu

by Julia Comnes '16 (journalism)

People often think that Aimee Jones-Suematsu wants to be a teacher because her mother is one. However, she says that’s not really the case.

“I think when I was a kid I always knew I wanted to teach,” she said. Her mother taught at Yujin Gakuen, a Japanese immersion school in Eugene, all of Jones-Suematsu’s life. She always encouraged her daughter to look into different career paths, like counseling or child services.

“It always came back to just, I like teaching, I like being in school,” Aimee said. By the time she got into college, she said her mother gave up on encouraging her to try a new career path. “A lot of people assume I wanted to be a teacher because my mom was a teacher, but it was kind of my own personal ambition.”

Now, Aimee is working on her master of education degree through the UOTeach early childhood/elementary program. She said she likes teaching because “there’s something about working with little kids that just puts a smile on your face.” She loves the joy children bring to learning.

She chose the UO program because of its intensive structure and its focus on social justice, about which she is particularly passionate.

Aimee, who is half Japanese, wants to create an environment of equity and inclusion in her classroom.

“We don’t really talk about the stories and the lives of people outside the dominant narrative, which tends to be Eurocentric, and very male-dominated,” she said. She hopes to provide her students with a different face and background than they might be used to.

In October, she attended the Northwest Conference on Teaching for Social Justice, an intensive one-day, workshop-based conference that provided her with new ideas for encouraging multiculturalism in her classroom.

Aimee wants to encourage students to respect each other’s differences. Recently, while working as a student teacher in an elementary school, she witnessed students making fun of a Chinese student’s lunch, which smelled and looked different than what the other students were used to. Aimee stopped the teasing students, and asked them to think about what it would be like if someone made fun of them for eating a banana or a slice of pizza.

“They didn’t really think of it that way,” she said.

Having grown up in Eugene and earned her undergraduate degree from the UO, Aimee says she’s ready to live somewhere else after getting her master’s. She’s thinking about moving to Seattle, Portland, Michigan, or Colorado, or teaching abroad for a while.

Wherever she goes, though, she’ll be teaching.