Prefectural Advisors

What’s a PA? 

Prefectural Advisors (PAs) are JET participants and Japanese staff that provide support to both JET participants and Contracting Organisations.  Each prefecture has at least one JET participant PA and one Japanese PA.  Kumamoto Prefecture has two JET participant PAs and two Japanese PAs.

What do we do? 

PAs relay information from CLAIR and the Prefectural Office to JET participants; supply information and answer questions on the JET terms and conditions, JET procedural matters, Japanese and home country taxes, health insurance, re-entry permits, visas, Japanese culture, driving in Japan, daily life in Japan, and a variety of other issues; plan and implement orientations, training seminars and other events; and occasionally mediate between JET participants and Contracting Organisations.

PAs are also available for consultation on personal or work-related issues. PAs can also help provide referrals to other resources as necessary.

What’s it all mean?

If you have any questions, need some assistance, or just want to talk with someone, please don’t hesitate to call or email one of the PAs.

Your PA team is:
International Affairs Division – Lily McDermott (CIR) and Keiko Kira (Japanese PA)
English Education Promotion Office – Chase Sutherland (ALT) and Keishi Matsuda (Japanese PA)

Here’s a little message from each of them.

Lily McDermott 

CIR Prefectural Advisor
International Affairs Division

Welcome to Kumamoto! I grew up in Scarborough, Ontario in Canada. In high school, I spent hours watching Taiwanese dramas, reading about linguistics and other languages, but thought of it as a hobby at the time. After abandoning a brief attempt to study life sciences, I ended up graduating with a degree in Linguistics from York University.

My first visit to Japan was through a relationship between my university’s TESOL Program and Meiji University, where I assisted teaching at an intensive English-language camp for university students at a seminar house in the mountains of Yamanashi Prefecture. At the time, I had already submitted my application to the JET Programme, and after just two weeks in Japan, I was excited to come back. I couldn’t wait to learn where my placement would be!

My time on JET began in the summer of 2016. I spent my first two years as an ALT in Kashima, the smallest town by area in all of Kumamoto Prefecture. There, I taught at a junior high school, two elementary schools and a kindergarten.

In August 2018, I started working at the International Affairs Division of the Kumamoto Prefectural Office as a CIR and PA. As a PA, I am here to offer Kumamoto JETs information and support. If you ever have questions, concerns, or need someone to talk to, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me!

To de-mystify the CIR PA position a bit, here are some of the things I do:

  • Listen. If you need to vent, are feeling homesick, talk over a difficult issue, or just need someone to listen, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
  • Facilitate communication between ALTs and contracting organisations when issues arise due to miscommunication or misunderstandings
  • Plan, organise, and facilitate Kumamoto Orientation
  • Compile the Kumamoto JET Programme Photo Directory
  • Visit schools with the Japanese PA to watch the classes of 1st year JETs
  • Conduct area visits with all 1st year JETs, their tantoshas, and some JTEs in a given area of the prefecture. There are usually about 6 or 7 areas that we visit in February.
  • Outreach visits to each area of the prefecture to have dinner with all the wonderful ALTs and CIRs
  • Disseminate information on taxes, visas, reappointment, driving, festivals, etc.
  • Edit The YOKA, a quarterly JET newsletter published by the International Affairs Division
  • Help revise a recommended JET Terms and Conditions for contracting organisations in Kumamoto
  • Meet, greet, and accompany incoming JETs from Tokyo to Kumamoto
  • Attend PA conferences
  • Prepare a Leaver’s Packet for non-reappointing JETs
  • Help the ALT PA to plan and facilitate the Skill Development Conference
  • Monthly eikaiwa lessons with the ALT PA for kencho employees
  • Maintain this website

In addition to being PA, I’m also a CIR, which means I do a few other things. My CIR duties usually take up about 30-40% of my time, and include:

  • Translations for the prefectural government. They could be anything, such as thank you letters to/from foreign officials, pamphlets about Kumamoto’s delicious agricultural products, presentations about cruise ships at Yatsushiro Port, or requests from companies abroad wanting to use Kumamon on their products.
  • Interpretations. The majority of interpretations are 30-minute courtesy visits to the governor, vice-governor, or other officials from visitors to the prefecture. Once in awhile I’ll also be asked to accompany visitors as they travel around Kumamoto.
  • English interviews. I interview applicants for Kumamoto’s Technical Trainee Program and other prefectural programs.
  • Elementary and junior high school visits. Play with students, do games and activities that teach the students about Canada, and do anything else that the school asks.
  • English camps. Occasionally participate in English camps throughout the prefecture.
  • CIR conferences.

Also important, here are some things PAs DON’T do:

  • Act as an advocate for JETs in disputes with their contracting organisations or JTEs
  • Evaluate JETs on their work performance
  • Intervene in personal matters between JETs, particularly on financial issues
  • Tell JETs, their contracting organisation, or their school what they have to do

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Chase Sutherland

ALT Prefectural Advisor
Prefectural BOE

Hi! I’m Chase, a 5th year ALT from Michigan, U.S.A. Before becoming PA I taught at Toryo Senior high school for 4 years. In Michigan I grew up on a farm and went on to major in creative advertising with a minor in Japanese. Michigan has a sister state relationship with Shiga prefecture, and I was fortunate enough to do a homestay and study Japanese there while in college. It was an incredible experience which spurred my desire to apply for the JET program.

As many of you know,  I’m the successor to the amazing and beloved Bilal Khan. For two years I’ve been fortunate enough to watch Bilal take on the hefty roles and duties of being PA with zest and zeal, as well as support us ALTs with dedication. He was the perfect man for the job, and I hope to continue the good work he’s done.

As PA I’m determined to make the JET program in Kumamoto a fulfilling, worthwhile, and safe experience for both the incoming and current JETs. 2020 has been a rough year so far, but I want to work towards having you all make the most of your time here, both in and outside of work. If you have any questions or need help with anything at all, please reach out to me or the other PAs.

As an ALT PA, my duties involve:

  • Information giving
  • Personal support for Kumamoto Prefecture ALTs
  • Coordinating “Sempai Shadowing” for 1st year SHS ALTs.
  • 1st year SHS ALTs surveys and interviews.
  • English class observation visits with the Kumamoto Prefectural BOE.
  • Checking of English scripts for various exams.
  • Random English checks for the Prefectural BOE.
  • Recording various listening tests throughout the year.
  • Attending and assisting with English camps.
  • The planning, coordinating, and organizing of the yearly Skill Development Conference.
  • Being available for mediation if any problems between ALTs and base schools arise.
  • Judging of speech and debate contests throughout Kumamoto Prefecture.
  • Bi-weekly visits to Kumamoto Agricultural School.
  • Monthly eikaiwa lessons at the prefectural office.
  • Assisting the International Affairs Office with the orientation of new JETs.
  • The meeting, greeting and accompanying of new JETs from Tokyo to Kumamoto for group A and group B arrivals.
  • Outreach visits to each area in the prefecture to have dinner with JETs
  • Attending PA conferences.
  • Compiling the Leaver’s Packet for non-reappointing JETs.

There are also some things that I DON’T do as PA:

  • Act as an advocate for JETs in disputes with their contracting organizations or JTEs.
  • Evaluate JETs on their work performance.
  • Intervene in personal matters between JETs, particularly on financial issues.
  • Tell JETs, their contracting organization, or their school what they have to do.

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Keiko Kira

Japanese Prefectural Advisor
International Affairs Division

Hi! My name is Keiko Kira. I’m originally from Oita City, next to Kumamoto Prefecture. I worked as an English teacher for 8 years in Oita, and then 10 years in Kumamoto. I worked in Amakusa High School before taking this post, and now I’m totally an “Amakusa Lover”.  I studied in Canada when I was a university student. I’m married and I have a four-year old son, who is super genki. It’s my first year to be engaged as a PA. I would appreciate if I could help you at any point. Speaking as an ex-English teacher, I believe that all the work ALTs do is definitely indispensable, so please do not hesitate to make contributions. I hope your views of life are broadened and enriched through your experience on JET.   Please enjoy Japan, Kumamoto and your lives as ALTs and CIRs. I’ll do my very best to support you all!

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Keishi Matsuda

Japanese Prefectural Advisor
Kumamoto Prefectural BOE
English Education Promotion Office

Hello! I’m Keishi Matsuda, Japanese PA since April 2016. I had been teaching English in high schools for 13 years until then. My work here is completely different from what I have done before, but I’ll do the best that I can for the JET Programme. Also having taught in various kinds of schools, I can give you some relevant advice if you need it.

I had many ALT friends in my twenties. Most of my English has come from them, but words are changing every day. Through this job, I will make efforts to improve my English to help you and express myself correctly. “I help you” means “you help me!” Let’s help each other to make our lives meaningful in Japan.

I was one of the “Rocky Wings”, which was a student exchange programme between Montana and Kumamoto. Now I’m fairly surprised to work next to the State of Montana Japan Trade Office!

I’m looking forward to meeting all of you, ALTs and CIRs. And all tantoshas too, of course! See you soon!