Chinese teacher program expands

Published 5:09 pm Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Polk Schools Superintendent Bill Miller looks on as Chinese exchange teacher Fang Lei guides Polk County Middle School students Lucas Nelson (left), Rayven Yoder and Dillon Hayes in making hun tun, better known here as won ton, in December 2010. Fang made the meat mixture and helped students as they spooned it into wrappers and boiled the hun tun. (photo submitted)

Asian culture and language could further pervade the halls of Polk County Schools next fall.
Superintendent Bill Miller announced Monday, May 9 that The Center for International Understanding and The College Board plan to place two teachers from China in local schools for the 2011-2012 school year.
“On one level, any exposure to cultures from another part of the world is good for students because we certainly live in a world where all countries and cultures are more intertwined,” Miller said. “On a second level, I just believe that the world the modern student is going to live in will look not so much at the degrees they hold, but at their toolbox of skills which will allow them to fit into the modern economy.”
Miller said he believes students having even a basic knowledge of Mandarin will enhance that toolbox.
And he said he thinks the students recognize the advantage for them as well. When administrators placed Chinese on the potential electives list for PCHS next fall, Miller said 62 students signed on.
“We’re excited because at the middle school they’re going to get some introduction to the culture and a little bit of the language and now they can carry on that learning through high school,” he said.
The programs’ Chinese counterparts subsidize a significant majority of the teachers’ salaries, Miller said. The local contribution amounts to about $300 a month in salary. Polk County administrators must also work to provide housing and transportation for the teachers during their stay.
Another $10,000 per teacher comes from the program to cover costs of supplies needed to carry out lessons on Chinese language and culture.
“In reality, what we’re putting into it is small in comparison to what we get out of it,” Miller said. “In a time when we’re cutting back things, it’s nice to add something that costs us little.”
Miller said the additional $10,000 this past year funded a program in which Chinese acrobats visited elementary and middle school students to perform. He said the other projects led by exchange teacher Fang Lei, who currently teaches at PMS, were also paid through those funds.
Fang also taught students about Chinese food and tea, among other aspects of the country’s culture and language. Miller said he was impressed by what Fang was able to accomplish with students in such a short time frame.
“We’ve got a video of two kids at our middle school having a complete conversation in Chinese,” Miller said. “It is really amazing to see that and think they’re only in eighth grade.”
While the middle school exchange program has two more years, Fang has decided to return home to China. Miller said Fang has plans to marry when she returns and attend graduate school.
With the addition of the teacher at PCHS, the high school will be able to have a Chinese exchange teacher in place for the next three years.
Miller said the school system is currently seeking a guest home for the two teachers to live in next school year.

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