LEXINGTON, Ky. (June 29, 2011) — A federal grant renewal is making it easier for Chinese language teachers to become certified to teach in Kentucky schools. The University of Kentucky and Fayette County Public Schools have joined forces to offer another path to certification this summer for the second year in a row.
The program, made possible through a STARTALK grant from the National Security Agency, helps to certify college graduates with Chinese language proficiency currently teaching with limited certification or those who wish to teach but do not have an education background. STARTALK, which began in 2007, seeks to expand and improve the teaching and learning of strategically important world languages not widely taught in the U.S.
"We're the only program in the state with the ability to certify Chinese language teachers in this way," said STARTALK administrative coordinator and UK Asia Center assistant director Shana Herron. "We have a great partnership with Fayette County Public Schools as well."
“Alternate route certification includes the pedagogic training in classroom methods and management, child development and exceptionality, along with supervised teaching practica with master teachers and university specialists,” added Beth Goldstein, an associate professor with the College of Education and co-director of the project. “The alternative route certification is designed for people who have some academic background and intend to teach in an area of critical need, such as foreign language pedagogy.”
Five college graduates began taking online classes in May, followed by classes at UK in June. From June 20-July 1, participants will take part in a children's summer program in Chinese language organized by FCPS at Crawford Middle School.
UK student Jing Zhang has lived in Lexington for four years, and while she enjoys teaching college students sociology at Bluegrass Community and Technical College (BCTC) and works part time at a local daycare center, teaching Chinese to Kentucky students provided a great opportunity for the future.
"I speak Chinese, but I'd never taught it, so I really wanted to enroll in this program after I heard about it," said Zhang, who found out about STARTALK by accident on the Confucius Institute website. "Kids enjoy the language and the culture, and parents — they want their children to learn Chinese."
Aspiring educators like Zhang have been teaching Chinese language to children ages 6-14 under the supervision of master teachers, spending their afternoons in workshop and lesson preparation. Fayette County students who took courses in Chinese last spring were also eligible to participate in the free summer language camp at Crawford. Herron said participation has increased from 40 to almost 70 children this summer.
"The arrangement works well, as kids can keep up their Chinese skills when school is out, and our teachers get the training they need for Chinese language certification," Herron said.
Zhang and a partner teacher instruct 16 children daily, with games, songs, crafts and cultural festivals. "For example, I rewrote 'A Hungry Caterpillar,' to focus on the caterpillar's fun at the Lantern Festival," she laughed. "We really do a little of everything. The kids have a lot of energy."
By the program's end, participants will be on their way to full certification in K-12 Chinese throughout the state, and the teachers can't arrive any faster, according to Herron.
"Chinese language and culture is booming in Kentucky and around the nation," she said. "Parents continue asking for it, and we don't expect a slowdown anytime soon."