Married Parkland professors teach students to keep an open mind

Matthew Moss

Staff Writer

Takuo Kinoshita and his wife Waunita, both humanities instructors at Parkland College, have lived in numerous countries and interacted with many different cultures.  All of their travels have taught them to keep an open mind and to never stop learning- two important lessons they want to share with the community and their students.

The Kinoshitas share a passion for the pursuit of knowledge. Their experiences with other ways of thinking have given them the desire to teach their students to be aware of the options available to them.

“Part of what we are doing is trying to let our students know that there are opportunities out there- that there is a whole world out there,” said Mrs. Kinoshita.  “There is an excitement to learning something.”

Mr. Kinoshita was born in Tokyo, Japan, and earned his Bachelor in Arts from Aoyama University.  He then taught at the Tokyo School of the Japanese Language, where he met his future wife.

Hailing from rural Indiana, Mrs. Kinoshita attended Butler University in Indianapolis and was part of a program that sent her to Okinawa, Japan, with the intent of eventually becoming the principal of the Okinawa Christian Institute.

However, a requirement for the program was two years of language study, so she ended up going to the Tokyo School of the Japanese Language, where she happened upon her future husband.

After two years of friendship and Mrs. Kinoshita finished her Japanese language studies, the to-be spouses pursued a more personal relationship and soon were engaged.  They agreed it was their shared love of education that brought them together.

Despite being over a half a country apart- with Mrs. Kinoshita in Okinawa and her fiancé being in Tokyo- for three years, their engagement showed no signs of faltering and eventually they were married.

Together, they moved to New Zealand, where they lived for five years.  They are both thankful for the experience of being able to interact with the culture there.

After leaving New Zealand, the Kinoshitas were in the market for a new home in the States.  They chose to plant their roots in Champaign County because of what they felt was a unique level of compassion and open-mindedness from the community.

Photo by Kunikatsu Imai | Contributor Humanities Professors Takuo Kinoshita and Waunita Kinoshita pose for a picture at a mountain village near Nagano Ken in Japan during a family trip.

Photo by Kunikatsu Imai | Contributor
Humanities Professors Takuo Kinoshita and Waunita Kinoshita pose for a picture at a mountain village near Nagano Ken in Japan during a family trip.

The Kinoshitas are both alumni of the University of Illinois.  Mr. Kinoshita earned his Master of Science in Educational Psychology and went on to partake in the U of I’s Year Abroad program, which sent him to Konan University in Kobe, Japan.

Mrs. Kinoshita also earned two of her three Master’s degrees at the U of I: a Master of Arts in Asian Studies and a Master of Education in Early Childhood and Elementary Education.  She also has a Master of Science in Education from Butler.

The couple accredit where they are today and the experiences they have had to not only their own quest for knowledge and understanding, but the benevolence and open-mindedness of those around them.

“We are very thankful for the opportunities we have had, because of the opportunities that people have given us,” said Mrs. Kinoshita.

The Kinoshitas stated that it is their mutual desire to contribute to all of human society.  They considered working with the United Nations, but decided to stay in teaching.

“We talked about what we would like to do in our lives, and one is to somehow become a piece of the bigger chain,” explained Mr. Kinoshita.  “That chain is not just Japan or the United States, but the whole, global sense.”

Together, the Kinoshitas have raised three children: Jun, who is now an archaeologist at Yosemite National Park; Aiko, an artist at the U of I; and Hiroyuki, who works with the Peoria Fire Service.

They raised their kids to have open minds regarding the world around them and, because they were raised in different countries as the Kinoshitas moved, have a strong sense of reverence for different cultures and ways of thinking.

Kofi Bazzell-Smith, a sophomore here at Parkland majoring in English Literature, has much respect for the Kinoshitas.  They would invite him, and other students, over and discuss coursework over traditional Japanese meals.

“[Mr. Kinoshita] stood out to me as the professor who wanted his students to succeed the most,” Buzzell-Smith said.

The Kinoshitas enjoy teaching at Parkland.  Mrs. Kinoshita explained that people are sometimes surprised that they have not yet retired.

“We might retire at 100!” she said.