BRADENTON — The world just got a little smaller.
Friday, officials from the Manatee School District and Saint Stephen’s Episcopal School welcomed three teachers from China who will be teaching Mandarin to local youngsters this school year. A fourth teacher is en route, but had not arrived as of Friday.
In a traditional toast and clinking of water glasses at a reception, Superintendent Tim McGonegal wished the teachers success and prosperity.
In turn, Liu Yanfen said she and the other teachers were feeling a little overwhelmed with the warmth of the greeting they have received.
“You have made all of us feel at home. We will do our best to teach your students and to learn as much as possible about American culture,” Yanfen said.
Two of the teachers are headed to Saint Stephen’s. One teacher will be assigned to Southeast High School and the other will go to Johnson Middle School. Those schools were selected because they offer the International Baccalaureate program.
Lynette Edwards, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, said talks about bringing Mandarin instruction to Manatee classrooms began four to five years ago.
“This is the moment we have been waiting for,” Edwards said. ”We’re looking for a really great year.”
Saint Stephen’s has had a global outlook for several years.
Jan Pullen, head of school, believes that with a shrinking world, it’s more important than ever that students are globally and culturally aware, the Herald previously reported.
Edwards said that with the rise of China as a superpower and trading partner with the United States, Mandarin is one of the languages that American students will need for the future.
The teachers are being paid with a stipend from the Chinese government, with the Manatee School District making up the difference for what a teacher with comparable experience would be paid.
District officials hope to eventually expand the program to the other high schools and elementary schools.
“We are getting some quality teachers from China,” Edwards said.
“We’re looking at this as a jump start.”
James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee Editor, can be contacted at 745-7021.