Yusuke Matsuda has been working to bring the Teach for America and Teach First model to Japan since he founded Teach For Japan (formerly known as “Learning for All”) in July of 2010. However, his passion foreducation and desire to make this model become a reality dates back much further.
In his first job as a teacher, Yusuke made it his number one priority to always support, encourage, and push his students to achieve their best. He developed a “Sports English” program that incorporated the use of English in physical education classes as a new way for students to learn the language, a subject many of them disliked.
As a club sports instructor, he led a track and field team that at first could not even reach the city competition to the national competitions league. When he took a peek at the classroom next door, however, he realized that there were teachers who only faced the blackboard while teaching, and never the students.
Unable to let go of the fact that there were teachers who didn’t put all of their energy into helping students reach their full potential, Yusuke began to think of how he could change the education system in Japan to bring more inspiring teachers to the students. He worked as an education policy analyst in Chiba prefecture’s Board of Education, but realized that politics and bureaucracy didn’t provide the answer.
Yusuke was introduced to Teach for America when Wendy Kopp spoke at the Harvard Graduate School of Education where he was a graduate student. He immediately knew that this model was one that Japan needed in order to help students all over the country who were struggling. He wrote his graduate thesis on the feasibility of this model in Japan, and concluded that the realization may be very difficult due to various factors.
Undeterred by his own thesis conclusion, after a stint as a management consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers, Yusuke decided to pursue the model with all of the energy and passion he had. Learning for All began as afterschool supplementary education programs called Terakoya that bring university students to teach students in need. Yusuke and his full-time and volunteer staff of over 150 have run nearly 50 Terakoya programs, reaching over 900 students and recruiting over 350 university student participants. Following this success, Teach For Japan placed its first cohort of full-time teachers in April 2013.