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First Lady of Japan Gives $30K to City’s Only Japanese Dual-Language School

By Gwynne Hogan | September 19, 2016 2:04pm
 Japanese first lady Akie Abe observed classes at P.S. 147 Isaac Remsen after donating $30,000 to the school.
Japanese first lady Akie Abe observed classes at P.S. 147 Isaac Remsen after donating $30,000 to the school.
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DNAinfo/Gwynne Hogan

EAST WILLIAMSBURG — The First Lady of Japan dropped into a neighborhood elementary school Monday morning to hand over a $30,000 check to the school’s Japanese dual-language program, the first of its kind in a city school.

Akie Abe, wife of Japan's prime minister Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, spent the morning at P.S. Isaac Remsen (325 Bushwick Ave.) listening on as students chanted Japanese nursery rhymes and Pre-K and kindergarten kids learned about planting seeds. 

“I welcome them to the Prime Minister's residence. I truly welcome them,” Abe said through a translator, extending an invitation to her home in Japan for the students.

The $30,000 grant from the Japan Foundation will go mostly toward supporting teacher salaries, according to Principal Sandra Noyola, who said that filling the dual language certified positions was challenging.

Last year parents of the program resorted to a GoFundMe campaign to try to raise money for a substitute Japanese teacher when the teacher they had went on medical leave. They currently have two certified Japanese teachers at the school.

In its second year this fall, the Japanese dual-language program was jump started by four Japanese speaking parents with young kids.

Now there are about twenty students, in two classes, half Japanese speakers and half English speakers, as is required for dual language programs.

“The philosophy is the children teach each other,” said Monica Muller, 37, a Japanese speaking mother of a five-year-old who helped start the program in 2015.

“I wanted pass it on to my son,” Muller said. “The question was how.”