US schools get more Chinese teachers

Updated: 2013-08-01 13:10

By Yu Wei in San Francisco (China Daily)

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Language instructors headed for K-12 classrooms in 30 states

A group of 130 Chinese teachers is undergoing 10 days of intensive training at UCLA before heading off to teach Mandarin in kindergarten through 12th-grade classrooms across America.

The teachers are part of the Chinese Guest Teacher Program, a collaboration between the College Board and China's Confucius Institute.

Started in 2007, the program is intended to help US schools develop Chinese language and cultural studies programs.

"We started with 30 teachers, and now the program is growing and growing. We have 130 new teachers this year," said Lisa Healy, associate director of Chinese Language and Culture Initiatives at the College Board.

According to the board, this year at least 187 Chinese teachers will be at work in elementary, middle and high schools in 30 states, with the largest concentration in Ohio, Utah and North Carolina. Since 2007, almost 800 guest teachers have served in the program, reaching more than 100,000 students.

Because most of the teachers will be assigned to small towns, in many cases they will be the only Chinese person in the entire community, Healy said. "they are really the pioneers of starting Chinese programs," she said. "In addition to teaching Chinese, they are also cultural ambassadors.'

The demand for Chinese teachers is greater than the supply, Healy said. there are not many local American teachers who are certified to teach Chinese, she explained. "For instance, Arizona has only two certified teachers, as is the case in South Carolina and Louisiana."

To be qualified as a visiting teacher, one must have at least three years teaching experience and go through a rigorous selection and training process before starting at the host schools.

Each teacher's annual salary consists of $13,000 from the Confucius Institute and a salary from the hosting school commensurate with local teacher pay scales.

The 10-day training session at UCLA includes three days of hands-on practice sessions teaching 170 elementary, middle and high school students.

The Chinese teachers are already getting some positive feedback.

"The parents keep telling me that they want their kids to do this every summer, even the whole year round, saying that they will ask their school district to start a Chinese program," Healy said.

At the same time, teachers themselves are excited and motivated.

"The kids are learning fast,' said Ma Zhi, a Chinese teacher who is headed to work in a school in Utah.

Ma, who had never been to the US before, said students here were different from what he expected. "they are very creative and enthusiastic," he said. "I need to adjust my teaching techniques to fit their needs."

For Ma, that means learning all about US toys. "I will use toys to interact with my students," he said.

(China Daily USA 08/01/2013 page1)