Friday, November 19, 2010

40 after 40: Sumiko Nishizawa


An education fair at the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo inspired Sumiko Nishizawa to leave her native Japan to study in Canada. But when the former elementary school teacher arrived on this side of the pond, she found herself struggling with issues of language, culture and identity.

“I had to experience and learn norms, values and beliefs that were different from mine,” Sumiko explains, “which confused me sometimes, and challenged me to reexamine my perspectives.”

Undaunted, Sumiko stayed in Canada and studied at Douglas from 1992-94, taking courses in English as a second language, English literature and philosophy, among others. From there she went on to graduate school at UBC. Her goal was to get her Masters degree in Teaching English as an Additional Language and then take her credentials back to Japan so she could help develop curricula and train teachers there.


Sumiko earned her Masters degree in Language and Literacy Education in 1997, and has been teaching Japanese at Kwantlen Polytechnic University ever since. In 2005 she returned to UBC to earn her PhD in Language and Literacy Education. She’s also been the chair of Kwantlen’s Modern Languages Department since 2006.

The road to success has been riddled with a few potholes, but a strong work ethic coupled with a healthy dose of determination have kept Sumiko on track.

“Each perceived failure opened the door to new possibilities,” she says. “Within a very few years of being in Canada, I knew I wanted to make this country my home, which helped me redefine the failures I experienced.”

Sumiko says she has been able to “create a space” for herself in Canada, thanks to her friends, teachers and the education she received here.

“All the friends who have helped me build my life in Canada and my career are those whom I met at Douglas,” she says. “I have made great friends there, and I am grateful. I would not be here today if I hadn’t studied at Douglas.”

40 after 40 is a series showcasing our amazing grads and employees in celebration of our 40th anniversary. Check back every Wednesday and Friday for another inspiring story.  See more about our 40th on our Anniversary page.