Remembering Taylor Anderson – English Teacher Who Died in March 11 Tsunami

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    The following video aired on Japanese TV on March 10th:

    It is news report about Taylor Anderson, a 24-year-old American who died when the March 11th tsunami hit the city of Ishinomaki. Taylor was a JET Program ALT who taught English at public schools in the city.

    It starts off with a look at the Taylor Anderson Reading Corner at Ishinomaki’s Mangokuura Elementary School. It has a collection of over 300 English language books for children donated by Taylor’s parents.

    They interview Cameron Peek, a friend of Taylor’s and a fellow JET. He comments on how Taylor enjoyed working with children.

    They also talk to Ayane Sugiyama, a 3rd junior high school student at one of the schools where Taylor taught English. Ayane remembers how she had trouble learning English, and how Taylor taught her to keep trying until she understood.

    Ayane wrote an essay expressing her thoughts and feelings about the loss of her favorite teacher. She wonders if the tsunami warning system was adequate. Apparently Taylor was last seen riding her bicycle towards her apartment, which was in the direction of the coast. She should have been heading to high ground instead. If the announcements had been easier to understand, would Taylor been able to hear the warnings and reach a safe place before the tsunami hit? A foreigner from an area that does not have earthquakes or tsunamis may not have known about the importance of evacuating to high ground. Ayane wants to improve her English so she can be capable of helping foreigners who cannot speak Japanese.

    Back in Virginia, Taylor’s parents show the Japanese TV crew how they have received over 1,000 letters from students who loved having Taylor as their English teacher. The Andersons know that their daughter loved Japan and wanted to help educate children, so they’ve established a memorial fund in their daughter’s name. It has already raised over $200,000 in donations:

    It is very important to Taylor’s family, friends and donors that 100 percent of the funds raised will be used for the benefit of the schools, students and families in Taylor’s area. Taylor’s family feels blessed that Taylor’s high school, St. Catherine’s in Richmond, VA is donating their time and services to administer the fund. Ishinomaki BOE, Smile Kids Japan, and the Fruit Tree Project contribute 100% of what they receive to the projects we identify with them.

    “We think Taylor would be very proud of this,” Anderson said. “Her spirit encourages us and gives us the strength to do our best in her honor and keep her spirit alive in all of us.”

    Activities on behalf of Taylor and Taylor’s Fund to date include: appearances at St. Catherine’s School (two), Randolph-Macon College, Japanese Ambassador’s Thank You Barbecue, National Jet Alumni Conference, Japan Sports Visitors Program at Ripken Baseball Academy, and the Taylor Anderson Reading Corner Dedication in Ishinomaki, Japan. The family also accepted the Luminary Award for Taylor at the Japanese Chamber of Commerce of NY annual dinner, made an appearance at the Atlanta Consulate Reception in Atlanta and the Anime USA Festival in Washington, D.C. Taylor’s Fund was a beneficiary of The American Chamber of Commerce Japan Charity Ball held in December.

    In the report, we can see the Anderson family giving a presentation at Randolph-Macon College, where donations from their fund have helped expand Japanese studies.

    The report ends with another look at Mangokuura Elementary School, where volunteers (including a former student of Taylor’s) are visiting classes to read the English books donated by Taylor’s parents.

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