LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Masanori Ichizawa

Position: Foreign Language - Japanese
School: Exeter High School
School District: SAU 16
City, State: Exeter, NH

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Ichizawa Masanori-sensei was nominated by a student who wishes to remain anonymous.

In the state of New Hampshire, there are very few opportunities for high school students to study foreign languages outside of Spanish, French, and Latin. Exeter High School had the distinction of being the only public school in the state to offer Japanese as a foreign language option to students. This is due to the passion and dedication of one man who commutes over state lines every day, a man who brings an entirely new culture to his students that they might not otherwise have the chance to learn about: Ichizawa Masanori-sensei.

"Ichizawa Masanori-sensei was and is, at least for me, the definition of a LifeChanger," said his nominator. "He is a man who has overcome some of the most difficult things that could happen in life and is still strong enough to care for and provide an utterly unique, challenging, and life-changing experience for his students."

Ichizawa-sensei takes the time to carefully give each student the attention they need, as long as they make themselves available to his help. He gives his students the opportunity to surpass his normal curriculum and challenge themselves, should they so desire. In the nominator's four years as his student, Ichizawa-sensei assisted him in summer study, allowing him to reach the highest possible level of Japanese language course that Exeter High School offered.

Ichizawa-sensei not only brings Japanese culture to his students, but he brings them directly to the source of the culture. Every year, he has his students participate in the Japan Day event held at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, where the few Japanese students in New England gather and celebrate traditional Japanese culture. His biggest achievement in practical teaching is the relationship that he has established and maintained between Exeter High School and Chiben Gakuen Nara College High School in Nara, Japan. Every year, Ichizawa-sensei organizes a program in which students come from Chiben Gakuen to Exeter and live with Exeter High School students. In exchange, EHS students are given the opportunity to study at Chiben Gakuen for one month every other year. He is the sole member of the EHS faculty to organize this exchange program.

Ichizawa-sensei has faced a number of challenges in his life that would normally make teaching an uphill battle for most, including a number of personal losses in his life. However, he puts all that aside and goes to work every day to enjoy and encourage the growth of his students.

"As a former student of his, I feel that I owe much of my success in the past few years to Ichizawa-sensei," the nominator said. "Thanks to his influence, I pursued the study of both Japanese and education following my graduation from EHS, and I am currently an English teacher in Kobe, Japan. Without his support, I never could have hoped to be in the situation that I am now. I hope that I can give to my students the kind of inspiration that Ichizawa-sensei passed on to me.

"I know I'm not the only one who has benefitted from his dedication," the nominator continued. "Even now, many of my former classmates have continued their study of Japanese language or culture or upheld relationships made with Japanese students that they met through Ichizawa-sensei's exchange program. I still visit with my former host students on a regular basis. My sister continues to study Japanese in university at this moment, and my brother is currently one of Ichizawa-sensei's pupils."

"At least within my life, no man has made a bigger difference than Ichizawa Masanori-sensei, and I have seen him make a positive impact on the lives of many people around me," the nominator said.  "A true LifeChanger is many things: a teacher, a mentor, a friend, and a guide through life. Ichizawa-sensei serves these roles and many more for those who are willing to learn. Whether he knows it or not, he has pulled the knot around this massive world that we all live in just a little bit tighter."