|▲ Artist's impression of the early childhood and elementary school building Photo courtesy SJA Jeju
New school St. Johnsbury Academy Jeju (SJA Jeju) is currently coming to the end of its construction and is expected to open on Oct. 23, 2017.
SJA Jeju will be the fourth school to open in the Global Education City (GEC) joining Korea International School Jeju, Branksome Hall Asia, and North London Collegiate School Jeju in the area.
The home-school, St. Johnsbury Academy is an independent high school based in Vermont, USA. SJA Jeju, while a separate school, will bring the expertise from the Vermont school to students in Jeju.
In anticipation of the school’s opening, we spoke to SJA Jeju Director of Admissions Barbara Lonczak about the new school.
One of the major benefits of being associated with a school with such a long history is the opportunity to bring the culture of St. Johnsbury Academy to students in Jeju.
Barbara explained how the two cultures will combine. At SJA Jeju “you will have the American independent school mindset and methodology, combined with the Korean sensibilities of history, family, and culture.”
One way the St. Johnsbury Academy mindset will be brought to Jeju is through the promises made to students who attend the home school. Barbara explained that each student will be afforded the opportunity to become a better person, a better scholar, and to become a part of something bigger than themselves.
This is done through helping the students realize the importance of character, inquiry, and community. At the school, character is built “through the guidance of our faculty and the subject matter students will be exploring.”
|▲ How the campus is expected to look once completePhoto courtesy SJA Jeju
Community will be taught by helping students “understand that they are part of a larger community and that you can look at things through other people’s eyes and be more enlightened.”Inquiry will be taught in the classroom, “The teacher is going to make you [the students] ask questions and find new answers. For example, make you look at history and ask yourself, “why did they do that?” and what questions can we ask today that weren’t acceptable then.”
Barbara pointed out that “while these promises originated in the mid-19th century, when you really take them in and think about them they are still pretty applicable for the times we live in.”
Of course, despite its association with St. Johnsbury Academy in Vermont, SJA Jeju will be very much its own school and there will be differences in the way things are taught.
For one, SJA Jeju will take on students all the way through their education while St. Johnsbury Academy is only for grades 9-12.
When completed SJA Jeju will have a capacity of 1,288 students spread out through grades Pre-K3 through to grade 12. While in the first year of opening only 370 to 400 students are expected, the school expects to reach its full capacity in five to seven years.
Another obvious difference is that of language and the fact that most students at SJA Jeju won’t be native English speakers.
While any student accepted into the school will be expected to have a grade appropriate level of English, SJA Jeju hopes to overcome any potential problems through their “English as an Additional Language Program”.
This program will support students with potential language problems and ensure that they are able to get the most out of their everyday classes.
As the fourth school in the GEC community, SJA Jeju can look at the success of the other schools when it comes to building their organisation. Of course, adding a fourth school has also added some competition to admissions.
However, Barbara thinks it is healthy competition. All the schools will benefit from renewed interest in a new international school in Jeju and they will all continue to grow and improve. The benefit for the students is that they will be better able to choose a school that fits their learning style.
In fact, as head of admissions, she knows just how important it is for students to be placed in the best school for them.
“Our job in Admissions is to find the student that we know is going to do well in our school because you know their personality and their ambitions.”
While the original St. Johnsbury Academy can boast of alumni including former president of the US, Calvin Coolidge, Barbara thinks that it is more important for the students to be inspired by recent graduates who are currently changing the world.
“They may not be presidents or CEOs, but they are [changing the world] because of those three tenants. Because they understood that being a better person is very important, because they knew the importance of asking questions and being part of a larger community.”
This idea of building the skills needed to help others was a strong theme. As a final word Barbara mentioned that she hopes the students who attend St. Johnsbury Academy will “learn how to see opportunities, not just for themselves, but for others around them.”