Several school administrators, teachers, and school board members from the Iron County School District (ICSD) were invited by the Chinese government entity called Hanban, which helps run the Confucius Institute, to tour some of their schools and view their English dual immersion program for a week-long visit to China, which happened November 4-12, 2016.  Hanban paid for costs associated with the trip. The aim of the Confucius Institute, which has a location at Southern Utah University, is to help create bridges of support for the education of Chinese language and culture.  

The trip itinerary included visits and tours of the Confucius Institute Headquarters in Beijing, Hunan Normal University in Changsha, a Chinese elementary school with English Dual Immersion, a Chinese high school and library, and a Chinese middle school English Dual Immersion class. The Chinese government also took the leaders to see some of the famous sites of China, which included the Forbidden City and the Great Wall of China in Beijing, and a famous national forest outside of Changsha, most popularly known as the location where the movie Avatar was filmed.

Dr. Shannon Dulaney, Superintendent of the Iron County School District, said “We are so grateful to Hanban and the Confucius Institute for their generosity in funding and providing this tour for a few of our school district leaders and teachers to go to China and visit with some of their elementary and secondary schools and see some of the magnificent sights of China.  We realize the importance of making connections to those who are helping bring about and supporting our current Chinese high school language classes, as well as supporting our new Chinese Dual Immersion program we are starting this coming fall at Fiddler’s Elementary. We want to sincerely thank the Confucius Institute for this opportunity, which will open an entire new world of learning and opportunity for our students.”

Rich Nielsen, Principal of Canyon View High School, who also went on the tour, said what impressed him most about touring the schools and meeting with educators and students was the “warmth of the people.” Nielsen said, “It was wonderful to see how much the Chinese educators and students wanted to connect with us, to have conversations about good teaching strategies, and their eagerness to share with us.  I believe this visit helps to strengthen our educational ties and network where our students and their students will have the opportunity to speak with each other and develop knowledge and relationships with each other. I was reading in the state-run newspaper in China as we were getting ready to fly out of Beijing, an article that stated the importance of all Chinese students being able to speak the English language by as early as the age of five!  I think that demonstrates the importance of establishing a global connection with educators worldwide. I’m excited to see the progress we will make over the coming decade with our partnership in Chinese dual immersion and Chinese classes in our high schools.”

Michelle Jones, Principal at Fiddler’s Elementary, who joined the tour and will be starting Chinese dual immersion this fall at her elementary school, said, “It’s beautiful and humbling to see that we are very different and yet so much the same all over the world. Chinese parents, just like us parents, want what’s best for their child and are willing to do the work and provide whatever is needed to bring about the best possible education for their children.  Just having gotten to listen to these Chinese students speaking English, knowing they have not been educated outside of China, demonstrated to me an exceptional willingness to embrace the English language and that was so impressive to me. I hope our students will embody that same openness and willingness as we learn Chinese.”

Dr. Stephen Allen, who is both the President of the Iron County School Board, and also Vice-Provost of International Affairs at Southern Utah University where the Confucius Institute has a location, said “I believe this visit to China and tour, which was paid for in full by the Chinese government, has had many benefits as we implement the Chinese Dual Immersion program, along with Chinese classes at Canyon View, Cedar High and Cedar Middle School. The visit has provided an opportunity to be immersed in the Chinese culture while establishing strong partnerships with Hanban and the SUU Confucius Institute. The trip has also been helpful in our efforts to prepare for the implementation of the Dual Immersion program and other language and cultural programs in the district.”

Currently, both Cedar High and Canyon View High offer Chinese language classes, whose educators are connected with the SUU Confucius Institute. Chinese Dual Immersion will start in the fall of 2017 at Fiddler’s Elementary School with one first grade class, and each year, adding another grade class until it reaches grade five. The enrollment process for parents interested in signing up their child will start after Christmas.

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