Academy focuses on Japanese immersion

The International Charter Academy of Georgia has about 165 students in a Japanese immersion curriculum.
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The International Charter Academy of Georgia has about 165 students in a Japanese immersion curriculum.

After a year of searching for a diverse school with intensive language learning options, Jermeka Howard’s online search uncovered the International Charter Academy of Georgia in Peachtree Corners. Not only did the school host a mélange of students, it also offered an immersive curriculum in Japanese. The Smyrna mom took a chance and put her son, Tavaris, on the waiting list.

“I didn’t think he’d get it, but by some good luck, he did,” she said. “He started third grade there last year. And he didn’t know any Japanese at all, but he was excited about learning it.”

Howard admits her son found the first few weeks frustrating. “But they told us to relax and that he’d pick it up very quickly,” she said. “He did, and after a month, he was teaching me.”

Howard credits her son’s progress to the academy’s approach that has students as early as kindergarten getting 80% of their course content in Japanese.

“Studies support the idea of having that kind of immersion at an early age,” said Felecia Tucker-Jones, principal of the K-5 school with about 165 students. “When that’s all they’re getting, they suck it all in. Even our kindergarten students are amazing.”

The school launched in 2018 with the goal of reaching metro area residents who want their children to develop fluency in Japanese.

“We have a lot of students whose families came from Japan to take jobs here, and they wanted a place for their students to learn the language,” said Tucker-Jones. “Oftentimes, their kids join our school but then go back to Japan. But we also have people whose students travel from five area counties and nearby neighborhoods because they want to learn Japanese.”

Accomplishing that goal takes dedication, said Tucker-Jones. “It’s not an easy language; nothing is similar to what we do in English. We’re very upfront with families who want to come to our school that they have to be involved and invested in their child’s education. But when parents buy in, the students excel.”

Families get an additional boost from the academy’s partnership with the Japan-America Society of Georgia that gives parents free memberships, hosts adult classes, holds events to foster conversation and stages social events such as movie nights featuring Japanese language films.

“The students and parents are very engaged,” said Howard. “And learning Japanese I believe will be an asset for my son. I have a military background, and if he wants to have that, too, knowing Japanese will be a big help.”

Information about the International Charter Academy of Georgia is online at internationalcharteracademy.org.

SEND US YOUR STORIES. Each week we look at programs, projects and successful endeavors at area schools, from pre-K to grad school. To suggest a story, contact H.M. Cauley at hm_cauley@yahoo.com or 770-744-3042.