The 'Ohana | HPU Alumna Yukiko Oki's TESOL Legacy (2024)

HPU alumna Yukiko Oki’s life flows with threads of cultural transitions, academic pursuits, and a passion for teaching. Currently an Assistant Professor of English in the Undergraduate First Year Writing Program at Temple University Japan, Oki has expertly navigated the complex landscapes of language and education, emerging as an exemplar in the field of Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL).

Born in Tokyo, Oki's early years took a sudden shift when her family moved to South Bay, California. This move at the age of three was challenging. "When we first got to California, my mom told me that I disliked English because I did not understand what my teacher was saying. I cried every morning not wanting to go to preschool," she recalls with a laugh. Yet, this initial resistance soon gave way to adaptation, as Oki found her footing in the new language and culture, forming strong friendships that helped ease her transition.

Returning to Japan seven years later, Oki faced the unfamiliar, yet again. Enrolled in a strict Japanese private school, her fluency in English set her apart, making her feel somewhat isolated.

"Even though I am Japanese, I did not feel included because I spoke English. My values were a little different," she explains. This feeling of otherness persisted until middle school, when she joined an international school and felt at home.

Oki’s educational path was marked by a series of transformative decisions. After high school, she attended the University of the Sacred Heart, Tokyo. Despite majoring in English, the hom*ogeneous environment left her yearning for diversity. "I knew I didn’t want to work in Japan then because I heard about its strict work culture," she says. Inspired by her grandparents, both lifelong educators, Oki decided to pursue academia abroad. Her grandfather, a professor of French language and culture, left a lasting impression on her.

"Whenever I went to see my grandfather, he would be so immersed in French culture, he would read books and sing songs to me in French, and I had no idea what he was saying. But he seemed to enjoy the lifestyle of the professor, and I guess I was envious of that,” Oki said.

The 'Ohana | HPU Alumna Yukiko Oki's TESOL Legacy (1)

A group class photo from an HPU TESOL class (Yukiko Oki seen back row, third from left).

This inspiration led Oki to explore universities overseas for graduate school, choosing HPU over a university in Sussex. Drawn by the opportunity to immerse herself in American English and the supportive community at HPU, Oki embarked on a journey that would shape her future.

HPU's TESOL program captivated her from the start. "I loved HPU right away. One of the students that spoke to me first is now one of my close friends today," Oki shares. Having no prior teaching experience, the program’s blend of theory and practical classroom experience was exactly what she needed. "One of the appeals of this program is how it focuses on the practical elements of teaching. It is not all about theory, but more about classroom experience."

The professors at HPU played a pivotal role in her development. Oki shared that the classes were challenging, but HPU professors were encouraging and supportive of what they wanted students to pursue. Opportunities to publish and present at conferences during her time at HPU provided Oki with the confidence and skills needed for her future roles.

After graduating in 2013, Oki’s career trajectory soared. Today, she is not only an Assistant Professor but also an expert committee member in the Textbook Authorization Research Council, advising Japan's Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.

Notably, her expertise and passion for TESOL brought Oki back to HPU in February 2024 as a guest speaker in HPU Applied Linguistics Professor Hanh Nguyen’s, Ph.D., class on Materials Development, where Oki shared her firsthand experience in materials evaluation with current HPU students.

"Yukiko shared her experiences as an expert committee member, offering valuable insights into the complex and rewarding role of a textbook evaluator. Her interactive, hands-on activities allowed students to apply their course knowledge to real material samples," said Nguyen. "Yukiko has maintained close ties with the TESOL program at HPU, contributing a publication to the TESOL Working Paper Series in 2016 and participating in an Applied Linguistics Talk panel in 2023."

For students considering the Master of Arts in TESOL at HPU, Oki’s advice is both practical and inspiring. "The TESOL class sizes are small which lends itself to small interactions and community-building. Also, the more you learn about TESOL, the more you realize it is linked to other fields, widening your perspective even more,” she advises.

“Without the experiences and education, I received at HPU, I would not have the confidence in what I am doing today. HPU taught me the foundation to be a professor; this includes, teaching, researching, presenting, and publishing. The skills I learned from earning my TESOL degree help me in different aspects of my current profession.

To learn more about the HPU Master of Arts in TESOL, click here.

The 'Ohana | HPU Alumna Yukiko Oki's TESOL Legacy (2024)
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