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UCPS receives national grant for Chinese program

Haiye Wang, a Chinese teacher at Marvin Ridge Middle and High Schools, visits chorus students at Forest Hills High School to demonstrate Chinese instruments, traditional Chinese music and modern Chinese music

Union County Public Schools has been chosen as one of 20 school systems in the nation and the only one in North Carolina to be a member of the first cohort of schools in the Hanban-Asia Society Confucius Classrooms Network.
“I am thrilled that Union County has been chosen as one of 20 programs across the United States to participate as a “Confucius Classroom” through the prestigious Asia Society,” said Donna Podgorny, the UCPS Second Language Curriculum Coordinator.
UCPS was selected based on achievements and potential in curriculum and instruction; integration and culture; leadership; and partnerships.
“It is a golden opportunity to collaborate with other “Confucius Classrooms” and a partner-school in China,” Podgorny said. “The award permits travel to China for some of our administrators, teachers and students. This first-hand experience by our local leaders will benefit all of us.”
The school system will be awarded start-up funds of $10,000 to be used to enhance its existing Chinese language programs through such things as language DVDs, posters, Chinese culture nights and language workshops. It will also offer local schools unique opportunities such as being matched with partner schools in China. Students, teachers and administrators will also conduct exchanges and joint projects in order to enhance language-learning experiences.
Currently UCPS offers Chinese at Monroe Middle, Weddington Middle, Cuthbertson Middle, Marvin Ridge High, Weddington High, and Cuthbertson High, with instruction through video conferencing offered to Sun Valley High, Porter Ridge High and Parkwood High School. In addition, some UCPS students are enrolled in Chinese through North Carolina Virtual Public Schools.
    All 20 schools selected to the Hanban-Asia Society Confucius Classrooms Network will be linked through an online community where teachers will share resources and best practices in an effort to build models for the field.
“These pioneers represent the future of high quality Chinese language education in the U.S.,” says Chris Livaccari, Asia Society Associate Director, Education and Chinese Language Initiatives.
The Confucius Classrooms initiative aims to develop a national network of 100 exemplary Chinese language programs over the next three years. The application process for the first year was done by invitation only, but in subsequent years will be public.
The Asia Society is a United States organization founded in 1956 by John D. Rockefeller III to promote greater knowledge of Asia in the US. The Asia Society has offices throughout the US and Asia and specializes in helping schools establish and improve Chinese language instruction.
Podgorny added that China is a country with centuries of history, and is currently a world power in finance, manufacturing and commerce. “If our students can gain skills to enable them to communicate successfully with world trading powers, it will certainly benefit our county and our country,” she said. “If in the process, our students become better global neighbors and learn of the ancient and modern ways of China, we will all benefit.”
Podgorny said being bilingual in Chinese is also a plus. “I look forward to knowing that large numbers of our youth will be able to communicate in Chinese, something that has not been possible for my generation,” she said.
The announcement of the impressive designation auspiciously arrives just before Chinese New Year, February 14, Podgorny said.


Written by: Deb Coates Bledsoe, UCPS Communications Coordinator
Posted: Feb 10, 2010 by Deb Coates Bledsoe

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