Meet the Officers

The JALT TYL SIG Officers are a bunch of cool people coming from different cultural and professional backgrounds working together to provide support and professional development opportunities to teachers working with younger learners. Our differences make us stronger and we always welcome new team members who share our same goals!

Grant Osterman

SIG COORDINATOR

Dr. Osterman has been teaching in Japan since 1993.  Originally from a small Midwestern town in the United States, he earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in education from the University of Maryland.  After a short hiatus, he completed his doctorate degree from Northcentral University in educational leadership.  Over his career, he has taught at elementary schools, junior high schools, universities, and is an administrator at a private school in Okinawa.  He joined JALT in 1995 and has served in many roles for the Okinawa chapter.  Currently, he is the Okinawa Chapter membership chair, the Teaching Younger Learners Special Interest Group coordinator, and the SIG Representative Liaison for JALT.

Paul Nanton

TREASURER

Hello! I’m Paul Nanton. I’ve been in Japan since 1998. I started out in Chiba, did a three year stint in Saitama and currently I’m teaching at a junior/senior high school in Tokyo. I have held a variety of positions from Newsletter editor, Membership Chair and now Treasurer. My teaching interests are bilingualism and language acquisition. If you ever have an idea for a speaker or would like for us to co-sponsor an event, please let me know and we’ll see what we can do.

Kate Sato

PUBLICATIONS CHAIR (EDITOR)

Hello everyone! I’m originally from the UK, and first came to Japan in 1991 (I think!). After a few years of teaching in different countries, I came to the conclusion that the future of Japan and English education lies how the children are taught. So, in 2001 I set up my own school for children in Sapporo aged 0-12 which had an immersion full-time pre-school programme. I (taught and) ran the school for 15 years before being lured into full-time into the world of academia and research. Now, I am researching the role of ALTs and phonics in the Elementary school classroom.
Away from university, teaching, and research, I enjoy gardening, cycling, skiing, and swimming. Please send in your contributions to the School House!  I hope to hear from you soon!

Gaby Benthien

PUBLICATIONS CO-CHAIR

Gaby Benthien (B.Ed., M.Ed. Ed.D.) was born in Germany and immigrated to Australia when she was 12 years old. She began her teaching career teaching Japanese as a foreign language and P.E. at a secondary school in Australia, and has lived in Japan since 1999. While the first 15 years of her career in education focused on primary and secondary education, Gaby is now involved in primary and secondary education by teaching a variety of subjects at tertiary level, including primary school English, primary school teaching methodology and cross-cultural understanding. Her research interests include L2 motivation, study abroad and teacher development. She has often attended and presented at JALT and Tokyo TYL events, and is currently the co-chair of Tokyo TYL. Gaby enjoys any outdoor activity including cycling, hiking, skiing and gardening, as well as creative pursuits such as pottery and leatherwork.

Martin Sedaghat

PROGRAM CHAIR

Martin grew up in San Diego, California, and received his bachelor’s degree in archaeology at UC Berkeley.  After working in Greece, he traveled to Japan through the JET program in 2003, planning to stay for only a year or so.  Of course, that didn’t happen, and he has been living in Niigata prefecture ever since.He has taught as an ALT at the elementary school and junior high school level, and also worked as a full-time homeroom teacher at a private high school.  Currently he is working at an English-intensive preschool and also studying for an MA in TESOL.  Martin joined JALT in 2020 and became the TYL SIG program chair in 2021.  He is particularly interested in how young children acquire language, as well as the design and use of picture books for use in English lessons.At home, he is usually playing video games with his son, planning trips with his family, or walking his dog.

Amy Braun

MEMBERSHIP CHAIR

Hello, my name is Amy Braun and I am the new Membership Chair. I am from Maryland, USA but currently live in Aichi. I have been teaching for almost ten years with seven of those years as a preschool teacher. My interests are more practical-based resources, critical thinking, special needs, and the learning behaviors of young children. Nice to meet you!

Nicholas J. Wilson

PUBLICITY CHAIR

Nicholas J. Wilson is an elementary and junior high school English teacher and curriculum developer fostering students’ digital literacy through foreign language education. He is a Level 1 & 2 Google Certified Educator and Level 1 Adobe Creative Educator in charge of supporting the professional development of English and Japanese teachers as a mentor, area leader, and member of the local board of education’s Digital Transformation Committee. His current research focuses on exploring the potential of the metaverse as a learning environment. He is also an active JALT officer involved in planning, promoting, and coordinating regional events and national conferences, and the founder and organizer of ALT Agorà, a series of monthly webinars designed for assistant language teachers, part of the ALT Training Online grassroots initiative.

Brittny Okahara

SOCIAL MEDIA COORDINATOR

Brittny Okahara was born in the United States and grew up in a tiny town on the border with Canada. She’s been interested in languages ever since she noticed the sounds of French carried over on radio waves. She was homeschooled for most of her childhood and was left to care for her 4 younger sisters. This gave her a natural eye for both child safety and fun. 
Years later, she pursued a degree in Game Art and Animation, but still found herself drawn to young learners. Her senior project was a math game for children. After graduation, she decided to spend a gap year in Japan as an ALT and never returned. She has taught learners from 18 months to 60 years of age and is currently working as both an after-school English teacher and a part-time preschool teacher in Western Tokyo.
In her free time, she still enjoys making her own video games as well as playing games made by others.

Mary Virgil-Uchida

JALT JUNIOR CONFERENCE CHAIR

Hello, my name is Mary Virgil-Uchida and I’m the JALT Junior Conference Chair.  I’ve been a member of the sig since it was first formed and I’ve always felt we are a unique group of teachers.  I came to Japan 39 years ago to teach at an international kindergarten for just one year but I’m still here!  I left that school after three years and opened my own English school for younger learners in 1986.  I love my job and I love helping new teachers about the joy of teaching children.  I hope to see you all next year in Fukuoka!

Marybeth Kamibeppu

MEMBER-AT-LARGE

Marybeth Kamibeppu is from a small-town on Long Island, New York. She always had an interest in travel and other cultures and languages, and her family hosted exchange students from many countries. This allowed her to have short-term homestays in Quebec and Caracas, and eventually led to a semester abroad in Japan during undergraduate work at Colgate University. To earn tuition for graduate school, Marybeth returned to Japan for a “couple” of years. After graduate school at the School for International Training (MAT), she taught at the University of Maryland, College Park, intensive English program for eight years. Return to Japan followed and she taught students from age 2 – 70 in the Kanto area. Six years ago Marybeth and her family moved to Hiroshima where a new stage of her teaching career began at Hiroshima International School, a small international baccalaureate (IB) school with students from age 3-19. In addition to teaching English language acquisition, Marybeth is the Middle Years Programme (MYP) coordinator and one of the college counselors. Outside the classroom, Marybeth enjoys aerobics, walking outdoors, attending sports events, and watching Netflix. She looks forward to meeting friends and family beyond Zoom when the pandemic is contained.

Marian Hara

MEMBER-AT-LARGE

Marian Hara is now retired from teaching younger learners from nursery school to high school for over 30 years in Tokyo. She served as the first Teaching Younger Learners chair of Tokyo JALT and co-edits the Teaching Younger Learners page in The Language Teacher. While Marian is still a member at large at present, she thinks it’s better to get more younger people involved if possible!