Photo by Johnny Jackson
Kindergarten teacher Kim Moss helps her student Addyson Ahern, 5, with an in-class science project at Dutchtown Elementary School.
HAMPTON — School officials will begin Monday taking roll for the state’s only Chinese dual language immersion program at Dutchtown Elementary School.
Principal Dr. Winnie Johnson said the program kicks off in the fall but registration begins next week.
She said parents can sign their rising kindergartners up at www.henry.k12.ga.us/de, starting April 29 at 8 a.m. until May 10 at 4 p.m. She said there are only 40 slots and those slots will be filled on a first come, first served basis.
“This is not an activity-based program,” she said. “It is not a supplemental program. The teacher is teaching the Common Core Georgia Performance Standards (curriculum) in Mandarin Chinese.”
The program is being facilitated through the Georgia Department of Education’s World Languages and Global Initiatives Unit, which helped the school secure a $15,000 start-up grant for materials and staff training.
Johnson said she has already recruited two native speakers of Chinese to teach.
“The challenge was finding fluent Mandarin Chinese speakers with early childhood education certification,” she said.
Taiwan-born Mei Cantrell teaches at Smith-Barnes Elementary School. She is fluent in Mandarin Chinese and will teach the kindergarten math and science curriculum solely in the language.
Cantrell’s co-teacher, Kim Moss, will focus on English/language arts, reading and social studies in English the other half of the school day.
“Mandarin Chinese is the most spoken language in the world,” said Cantrell. “This program will give these children a head start in learning a high demand second language. I am very excited and thankful for this great opportunity, and I am looking forward to having a successful year.”
Yu-Chi Hsu will join the Dutchtown faculty, coming from the Athens-Clarke School System. She will teach regular kindergarten next year but will roll out the first-grade component of dual immersion the following year. Her co-teacher will be Amanda Wilson.
Johnson reflected on the trip she took to China nearly seven years ago that inspired the endeavor, backed by State School Superintendent Dr. John Barge whose goal is to implement 20 programs by the year 2020.
“I was a part of a ‘bridge trip’ for educators and administrators to help bridge the gap between U.S. educational practices and those of countries around the world,” said Johnson. “The trip to China opened my eyes to some amazing educational ideas I couldn’t wait to share with my school upon our return.”
Ever since then, the school has hosted various activities steeped in Chinese culture like its annual Chinese Autumn Moon and Chinese New Year festivals.
Dual immersion will take the school’s study of Chinese culture to a different level. Johnson said it will help cultivate a community of bilingual students who better understand the culture.
“Research has proven that bilingual students perform at or above the levels of their non-bilingual counterparts,” she said.
Johnson’s daughter, Genine Blue, is in the educational research and measurement doctoral program at the University of South Carolina. She will document the effectiveness of academic achievement and stakeholder perceptions at Dutchtown.
“The point is to prepare our students for the global realities that await them,” said Johnson. “We’re doing this to prepare them for something bigger.”
Dutchtown will host a dual immersion information event May 7 at 6 p.m.