MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - The high school students at Coastal Leadership Academy will find themselves immersed in the Chinese culture when classes resume.
Officials at the charter school said CLA is the first to offer a Mandarin language program in the Grand Strand area. The cultural program is designed to expose students to the language and culture, but also prepare them for a culturally diverse world.
The week before school starts, teachers at CLA were learning Mandarin. Soon, the classrooms for teachers Wang Jie, and Zhou Chang will be filled with students eager to learn.
Renee Mathews, principal at CLA, said this type of program is needed in the local community.
"I realized there is Chinese investments in this area, but not very many opportunities to learn the language or about the culture, and so I wanted to bring that opportunity here," Mathews said.
She was the founder of a Chinese immersion school in the Midlands area before becoming principal at CLA. Matthews added there was a group of professors who were interested in providing a Mandarin studies program for South Carolina.
Mathews said a partnership with University of South Carolina's Confucius Institute and the Beijing Language and Culture University helped bring both teachers to Myrtle Beach.
"They bring so much in terms of sharing their culture and sharing what the Chinese education system is," Matthews said. It is sort of an east meets west."
The teachers, Chang and Jie, who also go by their American names "Annie" and "Lucy," will spend the school year teaching ninth through 12th grade students the customs and culture of China.
"This is the first time we come here, so everything is new, the weather, the people and the food," said Change. "But everything is wonderful, but it is really beautiful here."
Both women have an extensive background in mathematics. In addition to teaching the Chinese language, they teach geometry, algebra, and pre-calculus.
"I hope the students can find themselves to be confident while they are learning a foreign language," Jie said. "And also when we are teaching math the students may also learn how to count in Chinese too. That will be fun."
Chang said their experience in the United States will help them in learning more about this country's education system and culture.
Chang said, "We are teachers and we are learning too," Chang said. "So we are learning from the students, the fellows, the language, the gestures, the speaking, the manners. Yes, all of this we shall learn."
While in Myrtle Beach, the teachers will also undergo more educational training from USC for specific areas like special education.
"For American education, they advocate to be critical and creative and that encourages us to be critical and creative," said Jie.
Mathews said they are all about creating leaders at CLA. She added the Mandarin program is the kind of program they need in their background.
"The students are excited, and they are globally aware," Matthews said. "They understand that China is a superpower, and the United States is a superpower, and that we certainly need to get to know each other better than we do now."