April 2021: Tiffany Spearman/Trager

Tiffany on her final day of school, where she taught only three students.

For our very first installation of Alumni Spotlights, I talked with Tiffany Spearman/Trager, one of GLJETAA’s newest returnees. Tiffany has only been back since October 2020 but has been busy with her new job teaching Japanese and aims for more in the future. Get to know Tiffany, and you may find yourself as excited about nine schools a week as she was.


As with all Alumni Spotlights, I asked my usual 10 questions for Tiffany.

Where are you from in Michigan or Ohio?

My hometown is Garden City, Michigan.

Where was your placement and how long were you there?

I was placed in Masuda, Shimane. I lived there from August 2017-October 2020.

What was your school setting like?

I went to nine different schools every week! I taught at four junior high schools and five elementary schools. I usually went to one school in the morning, and then I would commute to a nearby school after lunch. My largest school had about 220 students, and my smallest mountain school had a total of 3 students! Needless to say, despite only seeing them for one class a week, I was able to build really great relationships with the staff and students at my smaller schools!

What is a memory you have in Japan that sticks out to you?

In Masuda, we had a state-of-the-art performing arts center called the Grand Toit. I joined a jazz dance team called M-Y-Z, and I would practice there every week! In the summer, all of the local dance teams would gather and put on a huge performance for the community, called the Iwami Dance Project. We all worked together to make an amazing show, and being able to experience the buildup of excitement with my team members and our sister dance groups was breathtaking!

Tiffany and the M-Y-Z jazz dance team

What are you doing now that you have returned?

Right now I’m teaching Japanese to American middle school students over Zoom through the Kids Explore Japan program! Along with that, I’m looking for a full-time job that will allow me to utilize my Japanese ability. I’m also taking some general education courses at Schoolcraft so I can go back to school and get a second degree in nursing.

Do you have any future plans you’re working towards?

I plan on staying in Michigan and continuing to facilitate cultural exchange between Japan and America! I want to continue to teach Japanese to Americans, teaching English to Japanese people living in the area. I’d also like the opportunity to work and use my Japanese in a business setting. If I can’t find a full time job with my current qualifications, I plan on going back to Eastern Michigan University and entering into their Second Degree in Nursing program. I’d love to be able to help the Japanese expats living in Michigan in a medical setting!

What is something Japan-related you wish you could get involved with here in MI/OH?

I would really like to join a Japanese conversation club if possible! I really miss being able to use my Japanese daily. I also really enjoy yosakoi, so I’d love to know if there is a yosakoi group in the Detroit area!

What advice or help would you like to give to other GLJETAA Alumni?

My advice for other alumni is to keep an eye on the Great Lakes JETAA social media pages. You can see all of the different meetups that take place, and a lot of interesting job offers get shared too! Don’t be afraid to network and make connections with other alumni and people that are in the Japanese community around you. It can be a really great way to stay involved!

What konbini food do you miss the most?

I really miss the sandwiches from konbini! My go-to was always the tamago-sando (egg sandwich) from Lawson, but I also loved mixed veggie sandwiches and chicken teriyaki sandwiches. I also really miss my ume (plum) onigiri!

Where can we reach you for networking?

My Linkdin profile is still a work in progress, but you can find it here.


Thanks to Tiffany for being our first Alumni Spotlight and for taking the time to answer my questions. I’ll be back with another spotlight in April, but in the meantime, reach out to Tiffany for more about her jazz dance routines in Masuda or her teaching experience in Michigan. Until then, mata ne!

Alumni Spotlights is an outreach activity through the Great Lakes JET Alumni Association seeking to build stronger connections between alumni and to provide bridges for networking. If you or an alumnus you know would like to be featured in an installment of Alumni Spotlights, please email Andrew Esterline at ec@greatlakesjetaa.org.