Long brown hair with a smile as bright as the sun, Nishio Akiko is always passionate about meeting new people and learning more about other’s culture. This hot blooded teacher, probably even hotter than Malaysia’s weather, has just recently embraced her 10th year of teaching career in Malaysia.
Physically, she appeared to be Japanese. Her love for beer is like any other Japanese. What makes her different from any other Japanese is “I am 70% Malaysian, “claimed Nishio sensei.
Always dreaming to be a Japanese teacher in a foreign country, Nishio sensei came across a vacancy notice on Japanese schools out of Japan. China, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong… and finally, she chose Malaysia as her stepping stone. “Because it is the furthest of all,”said Nishio sensei. It was not a rebellious thought, wanting to stay away from her family or whatsoever. However, the ever adventurous teacher thought that it would be interesting to get out from her comfort zone.
Having Japanese as her only spoken language, she had a hard time getting used to the Malaysian life. Communication was indeed a big problem, but she did not let it get into her way. Five years of hard work paid off when she set up her very own ‘A to Z Language Centre’, a language centre which teaches Japanese by using English. Furthermore, A to Z offers not only Japanese language but also English and Mandarin classes.
Besides that, her effort in learning the Malay language was put on a test when she was given a chance to teach Malay boatmen of Kuala Selangor Japanese two years ago. She brought back a report card with an A+ grade.
Teaching on boats with life jackets on was definitely not an experience many teachers had. Nishio sensei was really moved by the boatmen who worked really hard in learning Japanese, hoping to provide better services to Japanese tourist who came to see the fireflies at Kuala Selangor. She indeed cherished the moments spent with the boatmen as they are in the same tune in “wanting to provide happiness to others as much as possible.
Intimidated by Nishio sensei’s loud voice at first, student, Ivy Chong, soon found the friendly side of Nishio sensei. “I was really nervous when I found out that the principal (Nishio sensei) will be teaching my class.” Ivy admitted. She remembered how tense she was whenever she was talking to her teacher. But now, everything is fine and “next time I’ll ask her where she got her nails done.”
What keeps the ever energetic teaching running is her long term goal. “I hope that my students will be more interested in things related to Japan,” said Nishio sensei passionately. She also hoped that the teachers and staff of A to Z will feel proud by being apart of the school. “I want to build a school like that, and I will build it.”
A decade of teaching in Malaysia…Of course she did not only see her students grow and succeed. Nishio sensei, from someone who does not know how to drive, speaking only a single language and only have a couple of friends underwent a total change.
Now, a managing director of a language center, a guest columnist for ‘Durian Navi’, a Malaysian based Japanese print magazine, owned a car and able to mobile around without a map, with a whole lot of friends to hang out with and not forgetting to be able to converse in English, Malay and also Mandarin way more fluent than any average Malaysians. Nishio sensei’s key to the person who she is today lies within her motto, “Must always improve, even if it takes time.”
(*in the Malay language “nama saya ialah” means my name is)