People Who Inspire

Elke Miller-Schweigert, California

How a happily married businesswoman and mother of two still found time to initiate the first full-time German-English immersion school and the first German kindergarten in Los Angeles.

Whenever I see Elke Miller-Schweigert, a native from Munich who came to Los Angeles in 1989 to study International Sales and Marketing, it always amazes me how calm and relaxed she is. This is a miracle considering her super-busy schedule as a mother of two daughters, 7 and 9, and the owner and founder of KiGaLa Preschool and the founder and chairperson of the Goethe International Charter School in Mar Vista. Elke also serves on several boards of German-American organizations and still makes time for friends and family. She also started a German community network group, Deutsche Gemeinde LA (German Community LA), and organizes events for families, children and women. Before venturing into the field of German-American education five years ago, she was director of finance of a governmental contracting company. However, she and her American husband Philip Miller, an Emmy nominated film editor from Philadelphia who also speaks German, always felt very strongly about raising their two daughters bilingually.

After visiting the Albert Einstein Academy in San Diego, the first successful German-English immersion school in Southern California, five years ago, she decided to devote as much time as needed to the development of a similar school for Los Angeles and an international preschool offering German, Spanish and English. In 2006, she started the journey with a German language program for small children in Santa Monica which became the KiGaLa International Preschool, a fully-licensed pre-school with its German, Spanish and English language programs and continued with the development of an elementary school. The Goethe International Charter School was approved by the LAUSD in July 2008 and opened its doors in September 2009 offering classes from K – 5.

Today, the Goethe International Charter Schools teaches 258 students and has a long waiting list. The school has just submitted its application for Middle School in November 2010 and is looking for a new building in order to be able to expand. This is a wonderful success after five years of many personal sacrifices and relentless work. “I am deeply grateful to my husband,” she says in an interview with German World, “who supported me 100% at all times and to the founding parents of the Goethe International Charter School who dedicated all their personal time during the founding phase in order to make our initiative successful.” Elke’s initiatives are indeed successful and one can only congratulate her on these accomplishments.