The Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts, the public residential high school for gifted students in Hot Springs, now has a native Japanese speaker on the faculty.
Miyu Sugimoto will serve as an assistant teacher to the school’s Japanese instructor, Elizabeth Brown, during the 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 school years. Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts is the only public school in the state to provide local education in Japanese.
Sugimoto, from Izumi, a town in Kagoshima Prefecture in southern Japan, teaches in Arkansas as part of the Japanese Language Teaching Assistant Program, or J-LEAP, which brings in speakers natives in the United States to serve as assistant teachers from kindergarten to 12th grade elementary schools.
J-LEAP is offered to American schools as part of a partnership between the Japan Foundation and the Laurasian Institution. The goal of the program is to provide a native speaker to serve as an assistant teacher to a head teacher in American schools. The assistant teacher becomes a more confident and qualified Japanese instructor while helping to strengthen the host school’s curriculum in the process.
Sugimoto was originally supposed to join Hot Springs faculty for the 2020-21 school year, but the covid-19 pandemic has prevented all travel through the J-LEAP program. She spent the year teaching Japanese in her home country, including at university level and online.