Teaching teachers about China

Updated: 2013-08-23 14:18

By Yu Wei in San Francisco (China Daily)

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 Teaching teachers about China

Participants from Irvine Unified School District show their Chinese painting at the Program to Adance Cultural Education in California, which aims to help local teachers to know the cultural heritages of their Chinese students. Provided to China Daily

Playing the Chinese lute, delving into Chinese history, practicing calligraphy and tai chi, 21 teachers from Irvine (California) Unified School District were eagerly learning everything they could about China in a three-day class called Program to Advance Cultural Education (PACE).

The course aims to help local teachers better connect with their Chinese American students and their families. It's co-hosted by Irvine Public Schools Foundation, California State University-Fullerton, South Coast Chinese Culture Association and Irvine Chinese School.

"The program started when Irvine Public Schools Foundation approached us with the idea for a class to help school district teachers understand their Chinese heritage student's cultural background in order to better serve them," said Chung Yulan, principal of Irvine Chinese School.

Founded in 1976, Irvine Chinese School is the largest Chinese school in Southern California. It has helped thousands of children and their families learn and preserve Chinese language and culture.

Chung said her institute is very excited about the idea, because "it shows the increased interest in learning Chinese culture among mainstream society. The concept of the program fits right in with our mission", she said.

The three-day class includes sections on Chinese history, geography, contemporary society and cultural artifacts, including literature presentations and art activities. The course curriculum was designed by professors at California State University-Fullerton.

"None of the 21 teachers who participated the program are Chinese Americans," Chung said. "And none of them are teaching China related subjects."

Irvine's Asian population nearly doubled and the proportion of Asian residents in Irvine increased from about 30 percent in 2000 to over 39 percent in 2010, faster than any other ethnic group. Chinese are the largest Asian American ethnic group, with 27,362 of the total 83,176 Asian Americans in the population, according to the latest US Census data.

"We initiated this Chinese cultural program because of the increasing number of Chinese American students in the Irvine school district," said Michelle Levasseur, program manager at Irvine Public Schools Foundation.

Another reason, Levasseur noted, is that the teachers want to learn more about different cultures.

The nonprofit Irvine Public Schools Foundation has offered a Program to Advance Cultural Education to teachers in Irvine to learn about Korean culture for seven years. "The teachers have had a great experience with the Korea culture program," she said.

Although there are only 21 teachers participating, she said the waiting list was long.

"We're limited to a certain number of teachers because we have to stick to the budget. If we had more money, we could put on two programs," Levasseur said, adding that South Coast Chinese Cultural Association funded the China program this year.

Feedback on the program has been encouraging.

"At the end of the seminar, they took a survey. All of the teachers, across the board, said the course will definitely help them in the classroom and with relating to their students and to their parents," she said.


(China Daily USA 08/23/2013 page10)