by Natasha Khairullah
For the next 18 months, Mandarin Middle and High schools will be getting an extra dose of another language. That language, coincidentally, happens to be Mandarin Chinese.
The two schools will receive extra forein language instruction and education in Mandarin as part of the Chinese Guest Teacher Program, developed by the College Board.The Duval County Public School District was recently awarded the program that will supply a guest instructor to teach at the schools from now until June 2008. DCPS Superintendent Joseph Wise and other members of the school district gathered last week at Mandarin Middle School for a reception to welcome the teacher, Lei Yang, who will provide Chinese language instruction and cultural education to students at both schools.
“The addition of Chinese to Duval County’s foreign language offerings is exciting and will greatly enhance the existing curriculum while supporting the national need for the study of critical languages,” said Wise adding that studies report that this year, Chinese will top English as the most-used language on the Internet. “It is our duty and responsibility to ensure that Duval County students are provided with resources and learning opportunities that will help them succeed in an increasingly competitive world.”
The program is part of the College Board’s nation-wide initiative to encourage native Mandarin speakers to serve as cultural resources in educational systems. Jacksonville’s Duval County School District applied in September 2006 for the award and received notification in October that they were selected.
“The fact that we, as a district, were chosen, is a great honor,” said Myrna Amos, Director of Elementary Programs for Duval County Public Schools. “Not only were we one out of four schools as the finalists, but we also beat out like-sized schools.”
Amos said Mandarin Middle and High schools were chosen because of the feeder pattern that they possess. “There were schools all over the district that were interested, but those two were the only ones with a feeder pattern initially, and ironically, it really had nothing to do with being called ‘Mandarin’,” she added.
A feeder pattern means that students of several primary schools will attend the same secondary school.
A survey was also given to a number of other Duval County schools to find out what additional languages schools were interested in.
“We wanted to know if there was an interest in Chinese before we applied for and launched a Chinese program,” said Amos. “We weren’t going into this blindly without research.”
Eventually, she hopes Mandarin Elementary can receive cultural education as well, so that the feeder cluster can be completed.
“Initially, we want them to have a true understanding of the Chinese culture at the middle level and an introduction of the understanding of the intricacies and the complexities of that language so they can then make a selection for their high school.”
The district’s push for the program comes on the heels of Duval’s Foreign Languages initiative and Amos said plans for obtaining Chinese instructors were in place even before the school district received the award.
“We were always looking at expanding the Chinese Language Program and overall expanding our critical language program – this is our launch.”
Carol Tao Lin of the College Board said the goal of the program is to bring as many as 250 qualified teachers from China by 2009 to teach in American classrooms for up to three years, and she said programs like this one can only help.
The Chinese Guest Teacher Program is sponsored by Hanban, China’s Office of Chinese Language Council International, in partnership with the College Board. Teacher stipends are being paid by Hanban while host schools provide housing, transportation, and administrative fees (for visa processing and required health insurance). Guest teachers are interviewed by the College Board for pedagogy, classroom management, cultural tolerance, and language skills in both Chinese and English.
The program represents a unique opportunity for students and educators to learn Chinese and learn about China from a native speaker.
Schools and districts will start a new Chinese program or expand an existing program. In addition, guest teachers will assist with curriculum development, student recruitment, and materials development. They will also serve as a cultural resource for other subject areas and for cultural enrichment activities in the community.
The guest teachers will work at the host schools for 18 months, and then renew for an additional year if both the school and teacher are satisfied.
Amos said a collaborative group of teachers and administrators from the schools will be helping Yang become acclimated and learn the American teaching process.
“We hope the Jacksonville Chinese Association will identify one of their members to also be a supporter in the community for our guest teacher,” she said.
The next group of up to 100 teachers will arrive this August.