When Gill Jackson and others began imagining a school where Cherokee children could learn their language and learn in their language, there were only a few hundred Cherokee speakers, all of them over forty. Two years ago, New Kituwah Academy opened, and a long held dream came true. Nine infants made up the first preschool immersion class in a temporary facility in 2004, with teachers who spoke to them only Cherokee. These former babies are now second graders at the Academy, and as Gill says in his video on this page, they are now singing in the language, laughing in the language, and dreaming in the language.
At New Kituwah Academy, Kituwah (Gi-doo-ah) or Cherokee language, is the medium of instruction for all subject areas. The children learn to read and write in the 86 character Cherokee syllabary before they are introduced to the English language and Roman alphabet in after-school classes. Parents with children at the academy are also required to take Cherokee language classes, although the youngsters far surpass their parents’ language knowledge since the children are at the ideal age to absorb a second-language and develop fluency.