Hall County School officials saw the value of teaching Chinese to pre-kindergarten students, and now four elementary schools get to take on the challenge.
After the World Language Academy opened options for young students to learn Mandarin Chinese, the Confucius Institute at Kennesaw State University offered four Chinese teachers to start programs.
The institute will provide volunteer teachers for Riverbend Elementary, Mount Vernon Elementary, Wauka Mountain Elementary and the World Language Academy, and Hall County will pay $16,000 in living expenses for each teacher. The Confucius Institute will fund all other expenses.
“We decided that implementation as early as possible is necessary in public schools,” said Carrie Woodcock, World Language Academy’s dual language director. “At World Language, students are taught in Spanish and English. We don’t teach them Spanish, we teach them in Spanish. For the Mandarin Chinese class, there was an immersion component where the teacher only spoke Chinese.
The students were very proficient by the end of the year.”
The other three elementary schools are the feeder campuses for North Hall Middle School, which boasts a growing Chinese foreign language program.
“It gives the students a jumpstart on trying to decide what foreign language they might want to study,” North Hall Middle School Principal Brad Brown said. “If they are able to get into the classes earlier and learn the basics of the sounds and symbols, the students can take more in-depth courses as they come to us. We even have a class that will allow them to earn high school credit, and I want to eventually expand the foreign language program down to offer more to the sixth and seventh grades.”
With the goal of creating a seamless Chinese learning experience from pre-kindergarten through college, the Confucius Institute, operated by the Hanban Institute in China, offers teachers and reading materials to partner schools.
“The partnership is a great thing,” Woodcock said. “Last year we invited several of our Hall County teachers there to look over library materials and made a large donation of books and supplies to help get them started.”
Hall County Schools, focused on providing Spanish and Chinese classes as important foreign languages to learn, sought more teachers.
“We’ve targeted Spanish and Chinese as our economic languages of choice, and this is a strong partner,” Hall County Superintendent Will Schofield said to the school board in early July. “They asked us if we wanted 10 teachers, but we decided to start off with four and establish them. It costs almost nothing to have them here.”
As the program moves forward in Hall County, Woodcock is helping the instructors develop concrete lesson plans and possibly pair up with “sister schools” in the county through videoconferencing. By using the new technology being installed at all Hall County high schools and middle schools, the four teachers could reach more than one school in a class period.
“Language acquisition is so important, and children love languages,” Woodcock said. “They’re naturally inquisitive and open, and we want to teach appreciation and love for other cultures. At a younger age, it’s also easy to grasp and develop that native accent before the muscles have formed their way of speaking. Our world is ever shrinking, and we want to have globally aware students.”