UAIS’s Sullivan Sensei is known for her joyful spirit, among other qualities


Having taught since the very first days of the program, Sullivan Sensei has made her mark as students’ favorite Japanese teacher at UAIS. Though popularly known for her passion for teaching and love of Japan and its culture, many still don’t know where or how she first grew to love it. 

Sensei’s first interest in Japan sparked in her first year of high school.

“I was in 9th grade and the counselors came to talk about the course offerings at the high school, and Japanese was a language that was offered. When I heard it, I thought, ‘Wow, it sounds so different!” I just wanted to be a little different and not take the languages most of my friends were taking. It really just sounded so different and interesting to me,” Sensei said. 

From her very first class, she fell in love with every aspect of it and decided to continue her Japanese studies in college. Initially, Sensei had not planned to become a teacher, but double majored in Japanese and international relations. Her interests involved issues of peace and conflict, diplomacy, studying the United Nations and all things alike.

“I was very interested in that and, you know, of course at an international level. So, I was thinking things like state department work, or an NGO (non-governmental org.) of some kind, Amnesty International or something like that. But I wanted to live abroad in Japan, so things just changed,” Sensei said.

Through her Japanese course, she was introduced to the JET program, also known as the Japan Exchange Teaching program, which provided her the opportunity to live and work in Japan as an English teacher. 

“I had not originally set out to be a teacher at that point, but my goal was to improve my Japanese language and live in Japan. But while I was there, interacting with the students and really giving them a feeling that me teaching them was really motivating them to learn English, kind of made me feel like that was something I wanted to do,” Sensei said. 

And so, from there, her start to teaching began. Like her students in Japan, her students here at UAIS can attest to the same motivation they receive from Sensei. 

Angelica Alpas is a senior at UAIS and is finishing off her fourth year as one of Sensei’s Japanese students.

“She’s one of my favorite teachers by far. I personally feel that she is one of my most engaging teachers. Every morning I come into class and she has a joyful spirit, I look forward to her class every day, and it makes my day brighter. She is constantly encouraging class participation and loves to include others no matter the size of a class,” Alpas said.

It is evident that Sensei’s embodiment of care and open-mindedness has made a significant impression on students, whether it may be in her English class in Japan, her Japanese class, or those just around UAIS.