“Providing our children with the opportunity to understand the Chinese language and culture will give them a better chance of succeeding in today’s global economy,” said state Superintendent of Schools Steve Paine said. “We have to face the future if our children are to be competitive. Rest assured China will be part of that future.”
The Chinese Guest Teacher program is sponsored by the College Board, which administers the Scholastic Aptitude Test and Advanced Placement exams. Former West Virginia Gov. Gaston Caperton, who heads the College Board, announced last spring a plan that would place 250 Chinese teachers in U.S. classrooms during the next three years. The first 40 are to arrive in January.
West Virginia’s two teachers will serve schools in Cabell and Kanawha counties beginning in January and remain until June 2008. Cabell County plans to share its teacher among its middle schools first and then extend the program to its high schools. The other teacher will go to South Charleston High School.
“We’re hoping to create interest in middle school with six-week exploratory programs so that the students will want to sign up for Chinese in high school next year,” said Jeff Smith with Cabell County schools. “Chinese is one of the top three languages to know in international business so we’re really excited about the opportunity to teach it to our students.”
West Virginia’s participation in the guest teacher program follows a trip last summer to China made by Superintendent Paine and other educators.
With China poised to become the next global economic superpower, policymakers say it’s essential that American schools expand their Chinese studies. More than 200 million children in China study English, but only 24,000 American students study Chinese.
In Kanawha County, South Charleston will join schools in Sissonville, which currently offer the only Chinese programs in West Virginia public schools. Jun Ying Wang began teaching at both Sissonville Middle and High schools this fall through Marshall University.
“West Virginia is not a very big state but I was surprised that it is very ambitious in international studies to broaden kids’ vision and train international attitudes and cultures and also to help bring kids better job opportunities through international education,” Wang said. “I’m proud to be the first Chinese teacher in West Virginia and hope that what I do here will work as a good experience for teachers who come after me.”