The Chiba-Wisconsin ALT Program

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The history of the Chiba-Wisconsin ALT Program

The governors of Wisconsin and the Japanese prefecture of Chiba initiated a sister state partnership in 1990. This partnership includes the creation of opportunities for sister schools, teacher professional development, and teaching English at schools in Chiba. The Chiba Prefectural Board of Education hires Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs) from Wisconsin to assist English teachers in Japan, teaching classes at the high school level. (Wisconsin Dept of Public Instruction)
Because of Wisconsin and Chiba's sister state relationship, Wisconsin ALTs are often invited to participate in events hosted by the Chiba-Wisconsin Association (CWA) and other Chiba & Wisconsin-related opportunities.

About the ALT job

Wisconsin's ALTs (WI-ALTs) serve a one-year contract with the Chiba Prefectural Board of Education beginning in August and ending in August the next year. It is renewable for up to three years (a maximum of five years may be possible). The salary in yen is equivalent to about $30,000 annually. WI-ALTs receive training and assistance with housing, transportation, and health insurance. (Wisconsin Dept of Public Instruction)

Eligibility requirements

Positions are open to any Wisconsin resident or graduate from a Wisconsin university; applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree or will be awarded such a degree by May 31 of the year in which they intend to apply. Applicants are not required to have teaching certificates or teaching experience, but should be eager to serve as a native-speaking assistant to a Japanese teacher of English. (Wisconsin Dept of Public Instruction)

Compensation and benefits

  • The contracted salary is 3,600,000 yen per year. After deductions for taxes, pension, health insurance, etc., the take-home salary varies from approximately 251,000 to 286,000 yen per month.
  • National Health Insurance is included which covers 70% of medical expenses for illnesses and injuries. The Chiba Board of Education covers round-trip airfare. The National Health Insurance can be used to cover emergency medical expenses incurred while abroad.
  • The contracting organization in Chiba will assist with finding appropriate housing. Rent will be paid by the ALT. In some circumstances, a housing subsidy may be granted.
  • Minimum days off

Where WI-ALTs are placed

While JET ALTs work in junior high and elementary schools in many cities across Chiba, Wisconsin ALTs work in senior high schools administered by the Prefectural Board of Education. (City name links to that city's page) This information is current as of April 2015.

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The application process

Those who fulfill the eligibility requirements can submit an application, letters of recommendation, and other necessary materials to the address in Chiba listed on the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction page. The deadline is usually in late January. A selection of the applicants received will be contacted for an interview. Applicants who pass the interview stage are accepted to the program.
Before departing for Japan, there is a pre-departure orientation in Wisconsin. ALTs will depart from Wisconsin and arrive at Narita International Airport in early August. Then they will travel to their respective placements and begin their new lives in Chiba. At the end of August, there is an orientation for first year Wisconsin ALTs and JET ALTs & CIRs (Chiba Orientation).

Information about Chiba, the ALT job, what to pack, etc. can be found on the First Year Portal Page.

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FAQ

  1. I don't speak Japanese. Can I still apply?
    Yes. Applicants are not required to speak Japanese. However, studying Japanese before arriving and while on the program will significantly improve your ability to communicate with your students and colleagues, as well as help you navigate Japan more easily. Even just knowing hiragana and katakana will make your first few days in Japan less overwhelming. There are many websites online to help you get started.
  2. I don't have any teaching experience. Can I still apply?
    Yes. Applicants are not required to have any teaching certificate or experience. However, understanding how the English language works and knowing how to make a basic lesson will significantly improve your classes, whether you are mostly suggesting ideas to your co-teacher or taking the lead. It is highly recommended that you look into basic linguistics and TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language)/TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). Even a cursory Wikipedia/Google search will help prepare you for your first few classes.
  3. I have never been to Japan/lived abroad. Can I still apply?
    Yes. Applicants are not required to have experience living in Japan/abroad. However, openness to new experiences and understanding other cultures will improve your ability to understand your students, colleagues, and friends on a deeper level. Expatriates commonly experience cultural fatigue and feeling disconnected from family and friends back home. Being mentally prepared for these challenges will make your time in Japan much more enjoyable.
  4. How is the Wisconsin Program different from the JET Program?
    The day-to-day aspect of the ALT job is very similar to JET ALTs. But the Wisconsin Program is smaller and cozier, and limited to high schools in Chiba Prefecture. Some national JET-only conferences, etc. are not open to Wisconsin ALTs, and some conferences and CWA events are Wisconsin-only. Also there are some administrative and procedural differences. However, interested applicants looking to get more information about the details of the job will find JET-related information very relevant.
  5. What's so great about Chiba?
    Chiba has everything in a small, convenient package: forests, beaches, rice fields, big cities, international business districts, Disney Land & Sea, and Narita International Airport (which has direct flights to many American cities). You can do traditional Japanese experiences, and then hop on a train or bus and be in Tokyo within 3 hours. Chiba is a major producer of food and fish, and people come from all over Japan to attend conferences and concerts in Makuhari or go to Disney in Urayasu City. And you can easily travel back home and throughout East Asia from Narita Airport. So Chiba is a great base to experience Japan from a variety of perspectives.

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Current WI-ALTs

About your contract

It is important to carefully read through your contract before coming to Japan. Once you arrive in Japan, you will receive a your jirei (辞令), an official letter of appointment of your position from the principal at your school. Each year in January, Chiba-WI ALTs will receive reappointment documents (recontracting forms) from the prefectural board of education if you are are requested/asked to stay for another year (1-5 years). Please contact the WI-PA with questions/concerns about the Chiba-WI ALT Contract.

Recontracting

Details on the Recontracting page.

Visa Renewal

Read about how to renew your visa, aka extend your period of stay, in detail on the Extending Period of Stay (Visa Renewal) Guide.

Taxes

A comprehensive explanation of all taxes can be found on the Taxes page. A guide on how to file US taxes can be found on the Tax Exclusion page.

Insurance

Wisconsin ALTs are covered by the National Japanese Social Insurance. Details are on the Insurance page.

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Apartment

Real estate companies and landlords in Japan have various policies/fees that are strange and unusual from the mindset of someone who rented an apartment in the states or another part of the world. Hopefully this explanation will provide you with an adequate start to understanding real estate company and landlord policies in Japan and what you may be expected to pay when you first arrive and throughout your stay in Japan.

1st Year ALTs
Upon arrival you will move into the apartment of your predecessor so please check with him/her about the cost of rent and utilities. When your apartment was originally signed, the prefectural board of education paid for your kenrikin (権利金). This is a signing rental contract fee. This initial payment directly to the real estate company who showed and sold the contract. Rental contracts last for two years.

Before making the apartment your own, there are a few payments you will need to take care of and note that all fees vary according to the landlord and real estate company your apartment is under. To be safe, please be prepared to pay these fees:

Up front you will need to pay two months rent for shikikin (敷金). This is a security deposit refundable at the end of your stay in Japan. This security deposit covers any major damage (not regular wear and tear) to your apartment. In addition to shikikin you will be asked to pay reikin (礼金) which is gratuity paid to the landlord, often known as key money. So, when originally coming to Japan you should be prepared to pay 4 months rent in full, 2 of which will be refundable if you take good care of your apartment and 2 of which will not be refundable. All of this money goes to your landlord.

3rd and 5th Year ALTs
Like stated above, real estate contracts last two years. However, after two years of living in the same place, tenants are required to pay koshinryo (更新料), a contract renewal fee. This fee is one month’s rent paid to the landlord. In some cases, in addition to koshinryo there also is koshintesuryo (更新手数料) which as a renewal fee paid to the real estate company. Therefore ALTs who are moving into their 3rd or 5th years may be required to pay koshinryo and/or koshintesuryo. Please check with your office staff at your school and/or with your landlord.

Useful Vocabulary Terms:
yachin (家賃) - monthly rent
reikin (礼金) - gift/key money
keiyaku (契約) - contract
shikikin (敷金) - security/damage deposit
tetsukekin (手付金) - down payment
chukai asenryo (仲介斡旋料) - realtor's fee
kenrikin (権利金) - maintenance fee
fudosanya (不動産屋) - real estate agency
bukken-harigami (物件張り紙) - cards advertising rentals in realtor's windows
manshon (マンション) - apartment block
shujin (主人) or ooyasan (大宅さん) - landlord
koshinryo (更新料) - renewal fee
shakuchiken - (借地権) owning a property on rented land; leasehold

Information found about real estate companies in Japan
http://www.transborders.co.jp/realestate/english/glossary/05.html

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Pension Refund

WI-ALTs leaving the program can apply for a pension refund. Read about how to do it on the Pension Refund page.

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