Greenville Chinese immersion program surpasses expectations

By Kelli Ameling • Last Updated 10:50 am on Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Mrs. Li, who came to Greenville from China as part of the Chinese immersion program, posed with her first class that will be advancing in the program at Walnut Hills Elementary School. — Courtesy photo

GREENVILLE —  The outcome of the first year of the Chinese immersion program at Greenville Public School has gone beyond all expectations.

On May 31, kindergarteners from the class of 2025 ended the year with a celebration of the success of the first ever Chinese immersion program at Walnut Hills Elementary School.

“It was wonderful,” said kindergarten teacher and Chinese mentor Kristin Mier. “I am excited for all the kiddos.”

Mier said the program was a fun year full of successful learning and cultural experiences.

To mark that success, a Chinese celebration was held, where more than 200 students, parents and family members joined to watch the immersion students perform songs, dances, skits and more through the Chinese culture.

“I am so proud of our students,” Mier said.

On the last day of school, kindergarteners from the Chinese immersion program at Walnut Hills Elementary School posed for a class photo. — Courtesy photo

According to Greenville Public School Assistant Superintendent Diane Brissette, the students, staff and parents were 100 percent committed to the program and came together develop a foundation for the program.

The Chinese immersion program was designed to be a six-year commitment allowing participating students to take the class from kindergarten through fifth grade at the elementary level. By the end of the program, the goals are for the students to not only be bi-lingual, but bi-literate.

“Our plan for expansion will take place in the immersion program, adding an additional teacher each year through the fifth grade to provide an ongoing experience for each cadre of students who start in kindergarten,” Brissette said.

Mier explained it was important for Greenville Public Schools to partake in the immersion program instead of a traditional-language class because younger students are able to absorb more from a native speaker, such as dialect and pronunciation.

“This is successful,” she said. “There is a benefit at doing this at such a young age.”

Mier said kindergarten Chinese teacher Li Xin recorded the students speaking in Mandarin and played it back to her family in China and the family was very impressed because of how well the students  could already speak the language and said they could not tell they were American students.

“(The program) has exceeded the expectations,” Mier said.

During the year-end celebration, Chinese immersion students from Walnut Hills Elementary School let off Chinese lanterns as they made well wishes. — Courtesy photo

As the class of 2025 moves on to continue the program in first grade, 50 new kindergarteners have already signed up for the 2013-2014 school year, which is more students than the 2012-2013 school year.

“We were thrilled with the outcomes of our first year of the Chinese immersion at Walnut Hills and the secondary program at both (Greenville Middle School) and (Greenville High School),” Brissette said.

Li will be returning to the program during the 2013-2014 school year to continue in the kindergarten position. Her husband, Cao Fan, will be joining her in Greenville to teach the class of 2025 in the first grade. Cao’s mentor will be Madison Kartes.

Middle school Chinese teacher Zu Shule will be returning to the province of Shanxi in the city of Shuozhou to continue her studies at an university. Her mentor was Spanish teacher Amber Guerreiro.

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