SAGAMIHARA, Japan – Ever since he was a teenager, Rodney Holloway has sought to help others.
Holloway, a military brat, spent much of his childhood in North Carolina. As a latchkey kid, he said his parents had him go to summer camp while they lived at Fort Bragg. After he saw how helpful the staff were, he became a junior camp counselor and later a camp counselor himself.
Holloway, 46, now teaches English for Speakers of Other Languages to children at Arnn Elementary School. When not in school, he conducts free English lessons in the surrounding community.
“I’ve always enjoyed helping out,” he said. “I’m just that type of person.”
Last month, Holloway volunteered to fill in and lead a holiday-themed English lesson for more than 20 Japanese children at the Oyama Community Center here.
In the lesson, he had the children introduce themselves in English and then play games of Pictionary and Bingo, which had plenty of sweets for prizes.
Holloway estimates he spent over $60 of his own money on candy and supplies to make the class as fun as possible.
“I wanted to give back to the local community and give the children some American candy with all that extra sugar,” he said, laughing.
One of the children, Asaki Yagi, 8, said she really liked the lesson, especially being able to use Skittles as markers during the Bingo games.
Yagi said she also appreciated learning more of the English language, which she plans to keep practicing.
“I use Japanese every day, but I want to be able to speak English so I can make myself understood in English,” she said. “I want to learn more English and attend other events like these.”
Holloway, who hopes to one day open an English language school, said he would like to have the opportunity to also provide free English lessons to a local orphanage.
“The thing that draws me to teaching is the people,” he said. “Whether it’s kids or adults, they come with something that they want. And when somebody wants something, it’s different from when they have to do something.”
At first, becoming a teacher was not in the cards for Holloway. While a college student at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Holloway initially pursued a biology pre-medical degree.
But in the first class when students had to dissect animals, he decided to choose another career path.
“I said, ‘This is not for me,’” he said. “So I then went back to something that I knew I could do well, and that was teaching.”
Holloway eventually graduated with a bachelor’s degree in education and later earned a master’s degree in teaching English as a Second Language.
Through his fraternity, Phi Beta Sigma, which Holloway said is proactive in community service, he also had the chance to assist local communities, such as spending time with youth in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.
Holloway has since been a teacher for about 20 years, most of which he has spent in Japan. When not helping children, he has even volunteered to teach English to Japan Ground Self-Defense Force members as well as support community cleanups.
“If I don’t do it and nobody else does it, then it’s not going to be done,” he said of why he volunteers. “If I have the time and there is something that people need, then I will just do it. It only takes a little bit of time in the day.”