February 28, 2020 marks the 15-year anniversary of the first class of 5 students that Sharon Huang held in her Maplewood home in 2005. As an international marketing executive and a mother of then 1-year old twins, Sharon understood the importance of global skills and the need to begin this learning as early as possible. Since then her journey has touched the lives of over 2000 children and spawned a groundswell of similar programs in New Jersey, New York and in other cities across the country.
Sharon’s belief in the concept was founded on the convergence of three trends: 1) the growing understanding that immersing a child in a second language has cognitive benefits enabling children to outscore monolinguals in standardized testing, 2) the increasing need for global skills in the workplace, and 3) the interest of parents in investing earlier for quality child care for greater benefits later in life.
Students who attend and have graduated from HudsonWay Immersion School (HWIS) are demonstrating truly remarkable academic and professional achievement. From the 5thgrade graduate with no family connection to Mandarin achieving a perfect 5 on the AP Chinese exam as a 7th grader, to the 5thgrade graduate from the Spanish program accepted to all four schools he applied to (Pingry, Newark Academy, Far Brook, Montclair-Kimberly Academy) HWIS graduates have shown qualities of self-motivation, grit, and love of learning. Unlike newer immersion schools that claim theoretical possibilities that their immersion programs may offer, HWIS has a 15 -year track record with proven quantifiable results. Sharon attributes much of its success to the fact that HWIS provides full immersion education, not partial immersion as most others do.
Full immersion education commits to teaching the core subjects in a second language for the majority of the day. In preschool, students are taught 90% of the day in their chosen language of study (either Mandarin or Spanish) and 10% of the day in English. In kindergarten, 80% of the time is in the second language with 20% in English. By middle school 60% of instruction is in English. Not only do the children achieve breakthrough proficiency in the second language, research conducted in a Rand study on Oregon public school immersion students showed that English skills surpassed that of monolinguals students by 7 months if continued through grade 5 and by 9 months through grade 8.
Today HWIS has two campuses, one in in Stirling NJ, and another in a new two-floor, 23,000 ft Midtown West location in NYC. Recently the school brought in Sue Ha as Head of School overseeing both campuses. Sue has over 16 years’ experience education experience both in the U.S and abroad. With this infrastructure in place, the school is expanding to add Grade 6 in September 2020 with the goal of becoming a pre-K to Grade 8 school by 2022. A new track called the Accelerated Language Track welcomes incoming 6th graders without prior exposure to the second language to experience the benefits of immersion education. Partial scholarships will be available for this inaugural class. Whether starting in preschool, elementary or 6th grade– students can find supportive environment to begin the global journey here– a journey that Sharon had the foresight to begin 15 years ago.