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Senseis’ Voices

Cathy Jonak
Cathy Jonak

A Farewell Message from Cathy Sensei

This month, with much appreciation and sadness we wish a heartfelt otsukare-sama and a very happy retirement to our longest-serving Japanese language guru, Cathy Jonak sensei.

Cathy has written the below message for all her fellow senseis.

Dear Colleagues,

The time has come for me to retire, and I’ll be finishing at the JF Sydney on 30th March after 24 years in the position of language consultant. I have really enjoyed my time at the Japan Foundation, working with great colleagues, both Australian and Japanese, many of whom have become friends for life. I consider myself fortunate to have worked all my life in a field I am passionate about, that of language and culture.

I have treasured memories of the beginnings of Japanese language education in NSW; the excitement of being part of a new wave, moving beyond traditional languages and bringing a new language and culture to Australian students; the group of enthusiastic teachers who inspired one another and shared homemade resources when there were no textbooks; the adventure of forging exchange programs and taking students to Japan for the first time, watching in delight as they made life-changing friendships with host families, and in dismay as they dived into the onsen head first.

Japanese has now become a leading mainstream language, the most popular in schools, but teachers’ enthusiasm hasn’t diminished, and there are many vibrant teacher associations. A highlight of my work at the Japan Foundation has been travelling around Australia and beyond to work with teachers on professional development. I think Japanese teachers are a special breed – professional and caring, open-minded and open to challenges, and fun to be with! It’s been a privilege and a pleasure to work with you, and I’m very grateful for your support and encouragement.

I’ll be embarking on my new life with some trepidation – once a Japanese teacher always a Japanese teacher- and I do hope to meet up with at least some of you in the future. I’ll certainly maintain my connection with the Japan Foundation, so I’ll be able to keep up with the progress of Japanese language learning in schools – long may it flourish!

After 47 years, it’ll feel strange not to go to work in the mornings, so I hope I can handle it… As I settle down to watch the NHK 11 o’clock morning news on SBS, surrounded by my cats on the sofa, I’ll be thinking of you! Please keep in touch.

O genki de!


Cathy practising for retirement with her language consultant colleagues Himiko Negishi-Wood, Mayumi Mitsuya, Michie Akahane-Suparman and Ayuko Suma at The Japan Foundation, Sydney.

Photo: whale | Haline Ly

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