"I am the only non-Japanese person who lives in my town," says Jenna Morton-Ranney '03, currently working in Chiyoda, Saga, Japan as an English teacher with the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme.
“I am the only non-Japanese person who lives in my town,” says Jenna Morton-Ranney ‘03, currently working in Chiyoda, Saga, Japan as an English teacher with the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme. “I don’t speak Japanese, but with enough confidence, the willingness to make mistakes, and some talent for charades, I’ve learned that anything is possible.”
After completing an immersive semester abroad experience in Madrid, Spain, during her junior year at Goucher, and completing her political science degree, Morton-Ranney knew that she wanted to combine her international wanderlust with her passion for public service.
“I’m based in a rural junior high school, but I also visit three elementary schools and a kindergarten regularly,” explains Morton-Ranney. “I also teach an adult English class to people who live in the village, so I’ve taught students who range in age from 3 to 73. I’m here to serve as an example of an American native’s use of the English language, and to promote internationalization in a culture that’s still largely unaccustomed to the presence of foreigners.”
Morton-Ranney was already well versed in American politics and creative writing, thanks to a semester at American University in D.C. with the Washington Semester Program and a series of classes at Goucher’s Kratz Center for Creative Writing, which included an independent study with visiting author Norman Howard. But her tenure in Japan has uncovered a third career option—teaching. “The best part of my job is watching the kids light up when I walk into the room, or the breakthrough moments when they finally figure out how to express themselves to me in English,” says Morton-Ranney. “I see them struggle to take the information in the textbooks and manipulate it, all because they’re interested in talking with me and exchanging experiences. The kindergarteners put me through my paces, but it’s all worth it when they say “hello” to me in the grocery store, and make that connection.”
After her JET Programme contract expires in August, Morton-Ranney plans to return to the U.S. and apply for jobs in politics and public service. She’s also hard at work on a novel.
“I have no firm career plans, though I do intend to stay in public service,” she says. “I’ll happily go wherever the wind takes me, as long as I can make a difference in peoples’ lives.”