Dr. Ernesto Matias
Chief Education Officer
Illinois State Board of Education
My name is Dr. Ernesto Matias; I am currently the Educational Officer for the State of Illinois. Among my responsibilities are Multilinguals, World Languages and other Academic areas. Multilinguals are students who come who speak a different language than English at home. World Languages refers to expanding students’ ability to speak other languages by learning a second language. The other Academic areas I am in charge of include Early Childhood, Special Education, Career and Technical Education.
I would like to express my sincere thanks for sponsoring our trip to Japan. It was and is a life changing experience for many reasons. First, our tour guides were outstanding. They were attentive to our needs and really took good care of us. Secondly, the pacing of the trip with enough time to relax and enjoy ourselves. Lastly, visiting schools and historical sites was rich with information and very informative.
The three schools we visited were very different yet had many similarities. Your teachers’ dedication, passion and focus on student learning were very evident. The decorations in most of the rooms and hallways were a great way of highlighting student work and displaying the type of learning at the school. It was amazing to see students and teachers during lunch. They were very respectful, diligent and efficient while serving lunch and cleaning afterwards. Classroom instruction focused on high expectations and developing students’ cognitive understanding of complex themes and topics. I especially enjoyed the singing and band at one of the schools we visited.
My host family were outstanding. The Nishio family treated me like one of their own. They were very thoughtful and explained Japanese customs. The food they prepared was very good. I was able to participate in a girl scouts activity on two different days. They took the time to take me to a grocery store and ninja museum. I remain in contact with them today. I hope to host them if they ever come to Chicago for vacation.
Words cannot capture this visit to such a historical city. The tour guides did an amazing job of explaining the circumstances in Japan on that terrible day. Japanese resolve, determination and amazing attitude were on full display at Hiroshima. My peers shared the desire for World Peace and I hope is the desire of the rest of the world.
The amazing spiritual beliefs of the Japanese embodied by our visits to the Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. I especially enjoyed meeting the Buddhist monk and his talk about his faith and belief system. Living in harmony takes a lot of self-sacrifice and work. It seems to me that the Japanese people provide a role model to the world of what is possible.
All of the visits to the various sites in the four cities were amazing. Each visit provided me with a deeper appreciation of the Japanese culture and its people. From the Temples, to the Island, Imperial Palace and other visits really opened my eyes to the genius of the Japanese past and present generations. I learning things that I will forever cherish in my heart. Seeing people lining up to get on the train and moving over on the escalators for other to pass was enriching. The taxi drivers with their suits and white gloves on were a delight to see. I especially enjoyed the food. I cannot pick out a single food that I like the most because I liked all of it.
From the tour guides, to the service staff at the Hotels, everyone worked hard to make this trip a success. I believe that Japanese people will always hold a special place in my heart because of this visit. The respect given to elders and parents, to the help provided to tourist, all of it speak volumes as to how special each person is in Japan.
My heart is full with happiness and joy when I think of my visit and the people I met. I could write a book about my experience in Japan. Thank you! I will take care of every Japanese student that I meet in Illinois and try to expand the Japanese classes taught in our school districts. Most importantly, I am committed to World Peace. Watashi wa Nihon ga koishikute, shōrai hōmon shitai to omotte imasu.