KSU Professor named 2021 Teacher of the Year by the Southeastern Association of Teachers of Japanese


KENNESAW, Ga. (Feb 9, 2021) — Kennesaw State University Professor, Kathy Negrelli, has been named the recipient of the 2021Teacher of the Year Award by the Southeastern Association of Teachers of Japanese (SEATJ). Negrelli, who is an associate professor and coordinator of Japanese in the Department of Foreign Languages, has worked at Kennesaw State University for eight years. She’s led the development of the Japanese program, expanding enrollment from 27 to over 200 per semester.

The SEATJ, an organization Dr. Negrelli has been involved with for over 20 years, is one of the largest and most influential Japanese teachers’ associations in the United States. It is a regional organization of scholars, teachers at all levels of Japanese language, and students of Japanese language, literature, and linguistics, which strives to promote academic work in the field and to further knowledge and appreciation of Japan and its culture.  

The SEATJ Teacher of the Year award honors educators who demonstrate a positive impact on student learning, dedication to teaching, sustained efforts towards professional development, contributions to the field of Japanese education, and strong leadership in promoting and advocating for Japanese education.  

“I am honored to be named the 2021 SEATJ Teacher of the Year. Teaching Japanese is my passion, and I constantly strive to create a classroom in which students enjoy learning and feel a sense of accomplishment,” said Negrelli. “I also hope they will continue their studies beyond their undergraduate years and will in some way contribute to mutual understanding between Japan and the U.S. in the future.”

While Negrelli’s exposure to Japanese culture started in the home -- she was born of a Japanese mother and American father -- she only began formal Japanese language studies in her junior year in college. After graduation, she moved to Japan to teach English and fell right in place with the country and its culture. She returned to the United States after 13 years to pursue her doctorate and has been teaching Japanese ever since. Dr. Negrelli has contributed greatly to building and developing the Japanese program at Kennesaw State. 

“Dr. Negrelli is a role model for excellence in innovative teaching. Having built one of the strongest and fastest growing Japanese undergraduate programs in the country, she inspires all of us with her future-oriented vision and compassionate team spirit,” said Dr. Olaf Berwald, Chair of the Department of Foreign Languages. 

Dr. Negrelli is very passionate about her teaching and admires her students for choosing Japanese as their language of study. She believes that this award will serve as a reminder to continue making Japanese learning fun and relevant to students’ goals, and help them stay motivated while on their Japanese journey.

“It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to learn Japanese since there are so many linguistic and cultural challenges. I can empathize with them because I was in their shoes when I first started studying Japanese. I think that helps me to be more compassionate and eager to do whatever I can for them.” 

-- Written by Jhordan John, Norman J. Radow College of Humanities and Social Sciences