The Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts, the residential public 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 2021-22 and 2022-23 school years. The Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts is the only public school in the state that provides local Japanese language instruction.
Sugimoto, who is from Izumi, a city in Kagoshima prefecture in southern Japan, is teaching in Arkansas through the Japanese Language Education Assistant Program, or J-LEAP, which brings native speakers to the United States to serve as assistant teachers at kindergarten through 12th grade schools.
J-LEAP is offered to U.S. schools through 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 lead teacher at U.S. schools. The assistant teacher becomes a more confident and qualified Japanese language instructor while helping to strengthen the host school's program in the process.
Sugimoto was originally supposed to join the Hot Springs faculty for the 2020-21 academic school year, but the covid-19 pandemic prevented all travel through the J-LEAP program. She spent the year teaching Japanese in her home country, including at the university level and online.