In today’s world, being bilingual at the minimum is a must and I am proud to say that I am a true bilingual/bicultural Korean-American. However, it was not easy to get to where I am today.
I was born into a monolingual family so becoming bilingual was quite a challenge. I was born in Korea and arrived in America at the age of two. At that time, my only language was Korean. As soon as I became five years old, attended a Kindergarten classroom in the American public school system where I was forced to sink or swim; in the early 70’s, the ESL program(English as a Second Language) was non-existent. Luckily, I was able to swim by somehow learning English on my own while still speaking exclusive Korean at home. with my parents and grandparents.
My parents were avant-garde immigrants who knew the extreme importance of preserving our native language and culture while acculturating in America. Growing up a Korean-American in the 80’s, I thought that I was an American girl who just spoke English like everyone else and only needed English. I dreaded going to Korean school every Saturday but I was reminded constantly by my parents that since I am Korean, I should know our language. But it was in high school when I finally realized the value of being Korean-American. While most of my friends at the time only knew English, I had an advantage because I already knew another language (Korean) and was even learning a third language, Spanish.
After graduating from NYU with a Bachelor’s degree in Broadcast Journalism, I spent years in the television industry. Writing script after script, I found it very unfulfilling and never felt appreciated. At the time, I actually felt that being Korean-American was a disadvantage. Since my broadcasting experience was not what I was hoping for, I decided to go back to school and earned my Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education. I became certified to teach preschool through 8th grade and worked in the public and private sectors. Having been fascinated with language acquisition and development, I decided to get two more certifications in ESL and Bilingual/Bicultural Education. With all these certifications and unique credentials, I was hired by the Ridgefield public school system to create and start their newly mandated Korean bilingual program. This was where I taught students in the ESL/Bilingual programs for 10 years.
Not only am I a teacher, but I am also a mom of two. When my children were young I searched for a bilingual preschool so that they could reap the benefits of being bilingual, but did not find what I was looking for. There were only either Korean preschools that taught in exclusive Korean or American preschools where only English was used. The students who went to the Korean preschools usually ended up in my ESL class, while many of the students who went to American preschools lost their Korean language abilities. Consequently, parents would have to send their children to Korean school to relearn their native language.
With the culmination of all my experiences as an educator and parent, I have come to realize the significance of immersing our children in a bilingual and bicultural environment. Therefore, I saw the need to create a TRUE bilingual preschool.
Why do young children have to learn only one language when they are fully capable of learning two?! After having taught and developed curriculum for 20 years I have taken only the best of everything to offer you a truly unique bilingual/bicultural learning experience.
Please do not hesitate to reach out to me directly with any questions about our school.
Thank you for your interest in iPlusOne Academy,
Maria L. Kim
Director & Founder