Captivated by their teacher holding the
multi-colored abacus, the group of eager kindergarten students shouted
out in unison the numbers she tallied with the small discs. And they
shouted in Japanese.
"We are not an ordinary school," said Minako Ahearn, executive
director of Seigakuin Atlanta International School located in the
western corner of Gwinnett County near Doraville. "As soon as you
enter the doors, you hear two languages."
he school, which moved to Gwinnett from Oglethorpe University last
April, combines English and Japanese fluidly in the curriculum for
children ages 3 to 12.
"We do everything in Japanese and in English. The languages have equal
rights," Ahearn said with a smile.
Seigakuin Atlanta International School
(or SAINTS, as students and teachers call it) has a strong commitment
to an international outlook, Ahearn explained.
Founded by Japanese Christians and American missionaries a century ago
in Japan, Seigakuin schools have encouraged students to transcend
national boundaries and to view history and their own lives in a
With approximately 60 students at the school, most are Japanese
Americans. But there is also a student from Taiwan, another student
from Vietnam and about a dozen American students whose parents want
them to grow up bilingual in today’s global society.
"This school has a fantastic reputation," said Kelley Marwede of
Suwanee, whose son, Connor, is in third grade and whose daughter,
Annalise, is in kindergarten.
"As you can see, I can’t get them to leave," she added with a laugh
while waiting for the two to finish swinging on the playground. "And
it is amazing how they really try to mix cultures — there really is a
More and more non-Japanese families are enrolling their students at
the school, Ahearn confirmed.
"There is so much diversity," she said. "Twenty percent of our
students are from non-Japanese speaking families who want their
children to be bilingual. For such a small school, it’s very
GDP Intern Ina Jee contributed to this story.