The first day of school is right around the corner, and North Harnett Primary School is gearing up for its first day of the Chinese Language Immersion Program. North Harnett has two new teachers, Langhong Liu and Ting Hou, both from China, gearing up to teach Mandarin.
The school’s principal Lisa Williams says they wanted to have that “to provide that diverse experience for our children ‘cause the world is very diverse and we want the same here for our students, to know what the world is all about... Mandarin is the most spoken language in the world.”
This will be the first school to have a Chinese Language Immersion Program in Harnett County and North Harnett Primary is the only school to offer both Spanish and Chinese language instruction and partner with Participate, a company that pairs institutions with educators.
North Harnett partners with Participate, who travels to South America and China to interview international teachers. Then they send videos of teachers to principals, and principals select teachers and Skype with them. That is how Liu from Beijing, and Ting from Guangzhou, were hired.
“Different backgrounds, cultures, from different countries, I like that environment,” Liu said. “That’s why I came here. It’s a great opportunity for me to spread my culture and learn something new.”
“I want them to feel the Chinese culture, to know of the language,” Ting said. “The internet is not correct, [they] won’t know the true language and culture.”
They are the first teachers to teach Mandarin at North Harnett. There are 23 children participating in the Chinese Language Immersion Program. There are also 24 children participating in the Spanish Language Immersion Program.
“I feel honored to be the first Chinese language teacher. It’s very good to spread my culture to other children in other countries,” Liu said.
The immersion program works on an 80/20 model with 80% of instruction devoted to Chinese and 20% to other studies. There is one class and the children stay with the Chinese teachers for the majority of the day. However, for an hour, reading recovery teachers work with the children. The children also will have english instruction in art, P.E., media and technology.
Liu and Ting have been preparing for the school year. When they arrived in America, they spent a week in Chapel Hill training, followed by two days of new teacher orientation.
“After we came here, they actually gave us a lot of training. We trained in a hotel for one week [about] cost management, and how to organize the whole class. Our principal and the school gave us a lot of documents, and we can use those things, can use it as a material. I think that they are very helpful,” Ting said.
“While I was in China, we had some training with some experience of Chinese teacher school. There were some teachers who worked in the U.S before, and I bought a lot of materials to decorate the classrooms and to practice teaching, so I think we did a lot of things to be here,” Liu said.
The new teachers were looking forward to meeting their new students and their parents.
“Our children in the Spanish Immersion classes, they speak Spanish with a native spanish accent because they are taught by native speakers. We expect the same once our kindergarten children start speaking Chinese,” Williams said. “It will take them a little while, but it’s the same way with Spanish.”
The language immersion programs continue through middle and high school. In high school, the children can receive college credits through the program, and when they apply to colleges the children will be bilingual or maybe even trilingual if they take both immersion programs.
“I am very humbled, for this has started seven years [ago] with working with international teachers. They put their lives in two suitcases and come here,” Williams said.
Liu and Ting are looking forward to the school year starting.
“I also feel excited. I feel totally different. The U.S. culture and American culture are totally different with the Asian culture or with China,” Ting said. “But I do love our school environment cause our school is very, very beautiful and I really love the decorations and all the colleagues, and all of our principals are so supportive and helpful. So whenever we have problems, they’ll help us. Even though we are kinda nervous ‘cause we are the first to teach in the Chinese program, so we have some pressure, but we can feel the power like really supported so we are really confident we can do it.”