About Us

Since opening the school in 2014, we have welcomed students and families from over 20 countries. We are dedicated to providing a unique learning experience that fosters your child’s natural inclination towards curiosity, self-discovery, personal excellence, and joy. At KAIS Elementary & Middle School, each student is an individual who gets the special care that every child deserves and thrives on.

Our approach is simple; we try to blend established goals with progressive methods through a variety of pedagogical approaches in the classroom in the hopes of striking that perfect balance between the traditional and the novel, the old and the new. We are honored to have you browse our website, and encourage prospective parents and students to inquire further without hesitation.

Guiding Principles

1. The primary purpose of education at KAIS EMS is to foster children’s natural inclination towards joy and curiosity, and to assist them on their journey of self-discovery and self-fulfilment.

2. Our job as teachers is not to tell children what or how to think. At KAIS EMS we are not in the business of promoting an ideology or elevating certain cultural practices over others. Our job, our duty as teachers is to open children’s eyes to the world’s unbounded possibilities. It is to mentor children as they seek to enrich their stock of knowledge, master essential skills, and develop their individual personalities in ways that give true meaning to their lives.

3. At KAIS EMS we think of school life as constituting an important aspect of “real” life and not merely as a steppingstone or stopover on the way to “real” life. We realize that schooling must prepare children for their futures; but we believe that schooling must also have immediate relevance and significance for the lives they are living right now.

4. We at KAIS EMS believe that the defining characteristics of the modern human are a love of compassionate sharing and the desire for true self-expression. With this in mind, we believe that schooling, through various collaborative and cooperative activities, should provide abundant opportunities to allow the free play and expression of these basic traits.

5. We believe first and foremost that children are persons. They have the natural right to be treated with the utmost dignity and respect. At KAIS EMS, we do not talk down to children. We do not lecture or berate them. Rather than punishing or “making examples” of students for certain behaviors, we try to find effective ways to foster their ability to empathize with others and to recognize how their actions affect those around them. At times reprimands are necessary, but they are always given in a spirit of understanding and within the context of and as a concomitant part of helping the child to grow. Reprimands do not seek to shame or instill feelings of guilt, but rather to encourage self-reflection and self-improvement. At KAIS EMS, we endeavor to help students to become engaged school citizens, to be active participants in school affairs who have a real voice in the school community. Through these “local” activities, students develop the compassion and confidence they need to become engaged members of the greater culture and global environment.

6. We of course do not know what technology will be like in twenty years, or how far it will have advanced. But we do know that current technology is already an integral part of children’s lives. We do not see technology as separate from human existence but as an extension of who we are and what we are capable of. Thus, at KAIS EMS, we do not teach technology per se: we integrate technology into our lessons, thereby creating meaningful experiences in students’ lives right now and developing in them the tools and skills they need to carry on their lifelong journey of self-fulfillment.

7. Literature and history are worthy subjects of study in their own right, but at KAIS EMS, we examine these and other subjects with a somewhat different objective. We mine these subjects for social and personal relevance; we study them as a way to shed light on the emotional and social and political issues that we face today. We do not glorify nor do we condemn the past. Rather, we see the past as a rich source of learning and object lessons. We see great literature and history as tools that will help students gain insight into human motives and motivation, that will give students a chance to see the peoples of past civilizations in their own context, that will afford students an opportunity to empathize and sympathize with their forebears’ errors and to emulate their successes so that we may better understand ourselves and our world today.

8. We at KAIS EMS aim to inspire our students to strive to do their absolute best in everything they undertake. We provide them with the skills and caring support they need to overcome the low self-esteem, low expectations, and self-limiting habits that can prevent them from accomplishing their goals. We also believe that an interdisciplinary approach that seeks to develop multiple intelligences opens up myriad avenues through which students can learn essential skills and develop strength of character. Under the conventional “stative approach” to teaching and learning, children are apt to put restrictive labels on themselves and thereby limit their goals and underestimate their possibilities. The “process approach” used at KAIS EMS prevents this self-limitation and helps students to understand that they are not “bad at math” or “good at English,” but rather that they are learners standing on a multi-faceted stairway that they can climb one step at a time through effort and effective strategies.

9. We at KAIS EMS aim to help children master skills, not only because of a given skill’s future utility or earning capacity, but because the process of learning a skill—any skill—is a journey of self-discovery that in and of itself helps a child grow. At KAIS EMS, we do not just “scratch the surface” of one skill after another, leaving each only half learned. Instead, we delve deeply into reading, writing, drawing, playing instruments, and other skills, extending the normal “limits” that children impose on themselves, helping them to break through obstacles such as boredom, indolence, fear of difficulty, low expectations, and lack of confidence.

10. KAIS EMS teachers work together as teams to create the best possible learning atmosphere and classroom experience for our students. We embrace the interconnectedness and interdependence of all subjects, all fields of learning. We work openly in a spirit of trust and cooperation and mutual respect to take full advantage of that interconnectedness and the opportunities for cross-situational learning that it offers.

Meet Our Team

Justin Bethune
Principal
Justin Bethune was born and raised near Ottawa, Canada. Shortly after graduating from the University of Ottawa with a double major in Criminology and Second Language Teaching, he moved to a rural port town in Fukushima, Japan on the JET Programme where he taught English at the junior high school level for three years. In the year following the 3/11 disaster, he received a MEXT scholarship to pursue post-graduate Social Sciences at Hitotsubashi University, where he graduated with a Masters degree in the Sociology of Education.
Maha Sa'di
Vice Principal & Language Arts Program Coordinator
Maha Sa’di was born in Amman, the capital of Jordan. After attaining a degree in Modern Languages at the University of Jordan, Maha spent four years teaching at one of the country’s oldest and most prestigious international schools, The Ahliyyah School for Girls. Motivated by her passion for Japanese language and culture, she came to Japan on the MEXT scholarship programme to study modernist Japanese literature at Sophia University.
Johnny Aravanis
Director
Johnny Aravanis hails from the state of Maryland in the United States. Since a very young age, Johnny has been obsessed with travel and foreign languages and went on to pursue East Asian Studies at university, focusing on Japanese and Mandarin Chinese. Professionally, Johnny worked for years as a translator and instructor before taking a managerial position at KAIS EMS. His years of experience in language acquisition and instruction inform his approach to education at KAIS.
Aya Ninomiya
Integrated Support Program Coordinator
Aya Ninomiya is the Integrated Support Program (ISP) coordinator and school counsellor. She earned her masters degree in occupational therapy from the University of Sydney and is a registered Occupational Therapist in both Japan and Australia. At KAIS EMS, she works hand in hand with the faculty to create student learning plans, and works with individual students to help them to set and achieve personal and academic goals. In her free time, Aya enjoys attending yoga classes.
Ruthy Sekine
Early Education Program Coordinator
Paul Luc
Mathematics Program Coordinator
Born and raised in northern California, Paul graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Physics and a minor in Mathematics from the University of California, Santa Barbara. After a variety of teaching positions around the Bay Area, he received his Master's degree in Mathematics Education from Teachers College, Columbia University in New York City. After several years abroad as an IB teacher, he worked as a mathematics lecturer at the University of Utah Asia Campus in South Korea. In his spare time, Paul enjoys playing guitar, skateboarding, drawing, reading, playing basketball, and keeping up with his favorite sports teams.
Kevin Haith
STEM Program Coordinator
Kevin was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. He holds a Masters degree in Automotive Engineering from Oxford Brooks University. During this time, he became interested in Japanese culture and wanted to live in Japan. Kevin enjoys working with electronics, computers, and cars as well as math and science.
Kate Sikora
Kindergarten Teacher
Kate Sikora is an early childhood educator with over fifteen years of experience in the classroom, both in the United States and Japan. She studied Early Childhood Education and American Studies at Rutgers University, in New Jersey. During this time, she worked as a teacher’s assistant in an on-campus preschool. It was there that she found her love for teaching children as it allowed her to employ her artistic and musical talents, as well as her love of children’s literature. She has been living in Japan for over a decade as a traveler, a teacher, a musician, and (recently) a mom.
Kelly Boaretto
English Lab Coordinator
Kelly is our ESL Program Coordinator. She has been a teacher for nearly two decades, with experiences instructing students of all ages. She has a degree in Japanese, as well as teaching qualifications in Japanese and English as a Second Language. Kelly also has a TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) certification which she has put to use in both private and public schools, as well as colleges and companies in both Australia and Japan.
Toshiaki Okada
Japanese Program Coordinator
Toshiaki Okada was born and raised in Yokosuka, Japan, but spent a portion of his childhood in Florida, USA. After graduating from the University of Hosei with a major in International Politics, he received his Junior and High School English Teacher License. Recently he worked at the US Department of Defense Dependents School in Japan. During that time he worked as one of the Japanese Host Nation Teachers and was an active member of the Continuous School Improvement Committee. In addition, he was in charge of the Annual Japan Culture Day Committee, and offered after school football club opportunities to students. He also holds a coaching license for youth from the Japan Football Association.
Jona Knudsen
Japanese Program Coordinator
Although born near Seattle, Jona spent much of his childhood and youth in Kanagawa, Japan, as well as Pretoria, South Africa, attending local schools. Pursuing his love for world cultures, Jona studied Anthropology at the University of Hawai’i with a focus on Japanese sociolinguistics and culture. He worked as a teacher at Kikokushijo Academy for four years prior to becoming an educator at KAIS EMS. He enjoys hiking, cooking, and watching documentaries in his free time.
Mike Stewart
Teacher
Mike Stewart is from Napier, New Zealand. Along with his degree in science (physiology), he has also completed a post graduate diploma in teaching and learning, and is currently engaged in research for a masters degree in educational psychology. Mike enjoys finding success in the day to day challenges of school life that can lead to better learning opportunities and experiences for children. Away from KAIS EMS, Mike is usually trying to entertain his young daughter.
Jamie Keith
Teacher
Jamie hails from Perth, Western Australia. He has been a teacher for over 10 years with experience in primary and secondary schools in Australia and Japan. Jamie has taught a number of subjects including Social Studies, Science, English as a Second Language, and mainstream English. Jamie is passionate about cinema and likes to be creative and produce short films in his free time.
Jennie O'Grady
Speech & Language Therapist
Jennie grew up in the leafy suburbs of London where she completed her master's in Speech and Language Therapy at City University London. She has ten years experience working in mainstream education and learning support across the U.K., Mexico and Japan. Her specialist training includes Attention Autism, SCERTS and Hanen, which put social communication at the center of child development. Jennie is passionate about using motivating and creative activities to foster the attention, interaction and language skills for successful and confident learners. When she's not covered in paint, shaving foam or glitter you can find her relaxing at the park or in a yoga class.
Anri Fabrot
Office Coordinator
Anri was born in Tokyo and raised in California and in Michigan. She returned to Japan to obtain her degree from the Department of Comparative Cultures at Sophia University. Her career was focused on Human Resources in corporations, both in Japan and in Europe, before becoming an Office Coordinator at KAIS EMS. Growing up training in rhythmic gymnastics, dance, and running track she still loves to keep active. She is also a mother to a teenager, a learner of French, and a lover of finding great food spots around the city.
Phill Boaretto
Nurse Practitioner
Phill is an Australian from the beachside city of Wollongong, located just south of Sydney. He has 23 years nursing experience with 15 of those years serving in trauma ICU and emergency nursing. Phill graduated from the University of Wollongong as a Registered Nurse with a degree in Specialized Science. He also has post graduate qualifications in ICU and Paramedic Medicine. As well as this, Phill has vast experience in working with young people of all ages gained from his time spent working as a youth leader/counselor in Australia. In his spare time Phill enjoys spending time with his family, running, and watching movies.

FAQ

Where is KAIS EMS located?
KAIS EMS is located here, 1-2 minutes away from Toritsu-Daigaku station on the Tōkyū Tōyoko Line.

Does KAIS EMS offer financial aid?
For families who cannot afford the standard KAIS tuition, KAIS EMS does offer some financial aid. Those wishing to apply are asked to submit an annual family income statement.

It seems as if KAIS EMS never gives out homework. Is that true?
KAIS EMS limits the amount of schoolwork children must do at home, but we do not eliminate it completely. Reviewing material, reading literature, watching videos, and performing tasks such as interviewing family members or drawing common objects are examples of some of the “work” we ask children to do at home.

What goals does KAIS EMS have for its students?
We want our students to grow up to be inquisitive, intelligent, inspired, and happy adults who never lose their passion for learning. Our progressive approach towards education reflects this goal. On the other hand, we understand that for our students to be successful in university and beyond, they will need mental toughness, practical skills, and a strong foundation in academic subjects such as mathematics and language arts. Our morning classes are designed to give students all this and more—to help them become both collaborative and independent learners.

My child’s experience in English is limited. Will you still accept him/her?
Our guiding principle for admission is this: we only accept students we are certain we can help. Students with limited English skills are welcome at KAIS so long as at the time of application we have the necessary space and resources to ensure a positive learning experience. In cases where we need to hire a private tutor to raise your child’s English level, we may ask for an additional fee, although we will try to avoid this whenever possible.

Is KAIS EMS the right school for my child?
Our school is located in the heart of Tokyo. We are just a one-minute walk from the train station in a “cool,” fascinating area crowded with countless small shops and buildings, a location bustling with people, taxis, bicycles, and even well-dressed pets out for walks with their owners. But some children prefer or need to study in a different environment. Fortunately, Tokyo boasts a number of excellent international schools, giving parents and children a wide selection to choose from. KAIS EMS is one of these quality schools, but, again, it is not the right “fit” for every child.

Does your school have a PTA?
Parents are an indispensable resource for us. Without their indefatigable support and valuable input, our school would not be the institution that we are all so proud of. So why don’t we have a PTA? In a sense, we do in the form of PALS, a parent organization that helps us plan events and offers support to parents who are new to Japan. PALS is and has been an integral part of our success. But we don’t have an official, traditional PTA where school policies and issues are discussed and voted upon. There are several reasons for this.

  1. We are a very small school, which means that most issues and requests can be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. Traditional PTAs are effective and even indispensable at large schools, where teachers don’t have the time to meet or oblige individual requests and where whole-school changes are needed to effect change in an individual child’s experience. Here at KAIS EMS, however, parents who want something special or different for their child merely have to ask for it, and we will make every effort to accommodate it.
  2. Many of our students’ parents aren’t “native” English speakers. Discussions during traditional international-school PTA meetings are often dominated by native English speaking parents, which means that non-native speaking parents are marginalized and inadequately represented. We don’t want this to happen at KAIS EMS.
  3. Many of our families are here for only a short time. In the past, we have had parents who have requested whole-school changes for their children only to have these parents and their children leave the country before we were able to put the changes in place. A traditional PTA, where such requests are openly aired, would make such unfortunate occurrences much more likely.  We, of course, want our “short-timers” to have a valuable and memorable educational experience while at KAIS EMS. But when it comes to making decisions that affect the whole school, our full-time staff and faculty must keep thinking in the long term.
  4. Work obligations or health concerns can keep some parents from fully participating in a traditional PTA. At the same time, these parents don’t want decisions made at “official” PTA meetings to affect their children in any kind of inconvenient or negative way. Many parents choose KAIS EMS precisely because of the school programs and policies that we have presented to them. They don’t want us to initiate dramatic whole-school changes based on votes taken at meetings the parents were unable to attend. This is another reason why we prefer to deal with parental requests, suggestions, and complaints on an individual basis.