Japanese Supplementary School celebrates 10 years of educational excellence on UAH campus

Japanese Supplementary School

The Japanese Supplementary School celebrates 10 years on the UAH campus. Jim Bolte (center, front row) Toyota Motor North America’s Group Vice President of Manufacturing, serves as honorary chairperson of JSS. Bolte is also a UAH Foundation board member.

Photo Courtesy: Yasuhiro Deguchi, JSS Chairperson of the Board

This year marks the 10th year anniversary of ハンツビル日本語補習校, or The Huntsville Japanese Supplementary School meeting on The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) campus.

Presently, JSS meets in the UAH Materials Science Building but will return to Morton Hall in 2020 after the building is renovated.

Established in North Alabama nearly 40 years ago, The Huntsville Japanese Supplementary School (JSS) meets on Saturdays. Students at JSS meet only five class periods per week. The academic school year runs from April to March.

Designed for students in the first through ninth grades, the purpose of the school is to teach Japanese language and mathematics to children of Japanese employees who have been transferred to North Alabama on a non-permanent basis. When returning to Japan, students can easily re-adapt to the educational system in that country.

"The second semester recently started and 16 new students joined JSS bringing our enrollment to 44. In March 2020 we will have more than 70 students attending Saturday School," said Mr. Yasuhiro Deguchi, JSS Chairperson of the Board.

In addition to serving on the JSS board of directors, Deguchi is President of TRIS USA, Inc., in Athens, AL. The company is globally recognized for manufacturing carbon brushes for DC (direct current) motors.

"We are expecting to increase the number of students at JSS due to Mazda-Toyota, YKTA, and other Japanese-based auto suppliers," said Deguchi. "As board members of JSS, we are working on finding new teachers and are in talks with Dr. Sean Lane and Dr. Andrew Cling for additional classroom space on the UAH campus."

Lane is Dean of the UAH College of the Arts, Humanities, & Social Sciences (CAHS) and Cling serves as Associate Dean.

"Hosting JSS is an important way for UAH to promote community learning and cultural diversity in our region and state," said Cling. The school will again be located in Morton Hall after the renovation, he added.

"To study at an excellent university is very good motivation for our student’s future, and we very much appreciate the generosity to use the Materials Science Building during the renovation of Morton Hall," said Deguchi. "UAH faculty and staff are kind and have given JSS warm support. We are looking forward to moving back to newly designed Morton Hall next year."

Jim Bolte, Toyota Motor North America’s Group Vice President of Manufacturing, serves as honorary chairperson of JSS. Bolte is also a UAH Foundation board member.

UAH alumnus Shigeyuki Ueno (’07, BSE, ’09 MSE, ’12, Ph.D. — Civil Engineering) has been teaching at JSS since the school began meeting on the UAH campus.

"I started teaching mathematics and Japanese at JSS when I was a graduate student at UAH," said Ueno. "I always find an interest in teaching something based on my knowledge and experience and in seeing kids eager to learn and achieve new things.

"JSS is not mandatory and is mainly for students returning to Japan, and want a smooth transition from school in the U.S. to Japan," said Ueno. "Students learn subjects similar to ways taught in Japan," he added.

On average, children in Japan spend more days, but shorter hours in school. According to the Center for Public Education, U.S. public schools require students to be in the classroom between 175 to 180 days a year. Japanese students attend school for up to 250 days a year, but not all of that time is devoted to classroom instruction.

Because it is crucial for Japanese children to cling to as many of the country’s traditions as possible, some Japanese traditions are being shared with the North Alabama community. Events include the Setsubun-Bean Throwing Festival (seasonal division), held in early February one day before the start of spring in accordance with the Japanese lunar calendar. People scatter beans the night before to drive away the evil spirits and to invite good luck. ‘Shichi-go-san,’ is a traditional rite of passage and festival day when parents take their children aged three, five and seven to the shrines.

Since 2010, more than 200 Japanese Supplementary Schools have been established in 56 countries.


Dr. Andrew Cling
Associate Dean/Prof Philosophy