With the COVID-19 pandemic complicating schedules and making travel infeasible for many around the world, many families were unable to attend Harker’s Summer English Language Institute. “Long story short, most of our Chinese families could not commit to our program due to conflict of schedule,” said ELI director Joe Chung.
However, because there was still great interest among families in Japan, Natsuko Mitsugi of the Tokyo-based after-school program GKCors stepped in so that Japanese students could attend ELI remotely. “We thought if there is any way we can provide the opportunity to local children to experience Harker ELI, we wanted to try,” she said. Mitsugi had heard about Harker in 2017 through a friend in the Bay Area, and had also met Joe Rosenthal, director of strategic initiatives, while he was visiting Japan.
Students met at GKCors and did their lessons together while receiving instruction from ELI teachers, working online from California. “We provided our facility and Harker teachers gave online live lessons for three hours every day,” Mitsugi said. “There are mainly two levels and each class has assistant teachers from GKCors.”
Despite the changes to the program, students enjoyed the lessons and activities planned for them. Karen Glovka’s students “were having fun every day, said Mitsugi. They learned about living things, rainforests and so on. They really enjoyed the games they played.” Although some of the more advanced lessons were challenging, “at the end of the week, we could see their satisfied faces,” Mitsugi said.
Giving the students a place to learn together was very important for the program, as it enabled the students to socialize and learn from one another. “Children had lunch together, played together and learned from each other,” said Mitsugi. “Of course, it would have been better to spend time at a Harker campus, but in a situation like this, we think we did the best we could. We really appreciate what the Harker ELI team did for us.”