Meet Mike: Teacher Trainer, Comic Artist, and Daily News Editor

Engoo Daily News, which delivers fascinating news for students to discuss every day, is one of our most popular materials. But did you know that a lot of work goes into making sure our news articles are as accurate, learner-friendly, and fun-to-read as possible?

Today, we’ll go behind the scenes and talk to Mike Kanert, a Daily News editor who brings decades of teaching and writing experience teaching to our team. 

– Tell us about yourself.

My name is Michael Kanert. I now live outside Toronto, Canada, but from 2001 to 2017 I lived in Japan. I started out as an assistant language teacher at a public school in a small town teaching kids. 

The town was wonderful and my students were amazing, and I always thought of it as my hometown in Japan. Also, the fact that the town had no more than six other foreigners meant I had to learn and constantly improve my Japanese if I wanted to talk to anyone! 

Mike when he was an English teacher in Japan

After teaching for about two years, I became a teacher trainer for 11 years. During that time, I trained over 1,000 people, wrote training manuals anywhere from 50 to 150 pages long, and prepared about 1,000 pages of lesson plans with point-by-point advice on how to make sure each technique could be implemented successfully.

In 2013, I started working at Japan’s most widely distributed English-language magazine, and the next year I founded an English-language tourism site for Japan. 

After returning to Canada, I began working as a freelance writer and editor for companies both in Canada and Japan. This is also when I joined the Engoo Content Team as one of the Daily News team’s main editors.

– What’s your role on the Content Team?

I’m mainly an editor, though I also occasionally write my own articles and adapt news stories from the Associated Press. I am also in the process of training other editors to work with the team.

Mike at his workstation

– How would you say your experiences as a teacher, teacher trainer, and language learner shape your work with Daily News? 

I’d say there’s a huge influence. I am always conscious that I am preparing materials for students, not for me. So what is most important is not what I want to say, but what students will get out of the materials.

I always consider:

  • Will this way of saying things be easy for students to understand at this level? 
  • Could I make it clearer? 
  • Will this description help the students get an image of what we’re talking about? 
  • Could I add a detail that will help them develop a personal connection to the content?

Having lived in Japan for almost 16 years, I also try to think from the perspective of learners who do not have the same background as I do. Will my readers really understand the same pop culture or historical or geographical comparisons that I do? Probably not — so I need to consider whether they’re really necessary to include, and if they are, explain them so that people of any background can understand.

I also think about what confused me most when learning Japanese. In particular, I found it confusing when the context suddenly shifted, and I didn’t know we were talking about a new topic. So I try to make sure that in articles similar ideas stick together, and try to always make it clear when the subject has changed or when we’ve gone back to an earlier subject. 

It also helps me to keep in mind what it feels like to have many things you’d like to say, but not having the language skills to say them in your second language!

– How would you describe the Daily News team? And what would you say is a strength of our Daily News materials?

The team is highly committed to creating content for our readers that is interesting, fun to read, and accurate. For example, the first thing I always do is to make sure that the facts are clear and accurate. If the facts are wrong, there’s no story.

I would say this emphasis on accuracy allows us to be better fact-checked than most other online news sources. Even major news sites will make misstatements or misinterpret events or, in particular, scientific studies. For example, we’ve even corrected the BBC on mistakes that we’ve found. 

Very often we present the results more clearly and accurately than anyone else, while also keeping the language at a level that is appropriate for our students. We also hope that people will discover new and exciting things about the world as they read. 

– Can you tell us about the structure of the Daily News team? Like, do different writers specialize in different types of stories?

Daily News writers don’t really specialize, though some of us will focus more on easy-to-read articles for intermediate-level students. 

I write and edit everything from science and health to business and entertainment. It’s actually quite challenging since most news agencies won’t require their writers and editors to be able to cover such a broad spectrum of content. 

Fortunately, I have a background in science and engineering, and a personal interest in languages, history, and movies, which gives me a good grounding for this kind of work.

– What’s the most memorable article you’ve written for the Daily News?

Probably my most memorable article was “Child Finds 1,500-Year-Old Sword in Swedish Lake.” This was my first article published with Daily News, and it was surprisingly popular with readers. I was also pleasantly surprised to see that the family of the girl actually saw the article and shared it!

– What do you do in your spare time?

I draw a comic strip on Instagram called Unremarkable_Us, which is about my crazy family. I’ve recently turned it into a book and would like to sell a million copies of it! I spend the rest of my time playing with my 2-year-old son.

– Is there anything you’d like to say to our students?

Thank you so much for reading! If you did not read the articles we create, we would not be here! I hope you enjoy our work!