Mount Airy City Schools Superintendent Dr. Gregory Little and Mandarin Chinese teacher Vicky Yang told Mount Airy Rotary members about the benefits of the program in the district. The two spoke at the regular meeting of the club on Tuesday at Cross Creek Country Club.
“We believe students with skills for innovation will be more successful in a complex world,” said Little. He likened the program to “another tool in students’ toolboxes” for tackling complex problems and applying them globally.
Little said many local companies are involved with China routinely as they carry on business internationally. He predicted China will play an increasing role in the future of local children and said learning Mandarin would help them collaborate with their Chinese peers. Little said one goal of the system is to prepare students to become global leaders and cited studies indicating students learning a “business critical” language are more successful than peers who have not.
Yang praised Little and the Mount Airy Board of Education for “having the vision to bring Chinese” into their high school. She also recognized Principal Dr. Sandy George for her help and “a wonderful classroom” which had been provided for her and Director of Curriculum and Instruction Dr. Kim Morrison for coordinating her transition to the city.
Yang told the Rotarians since childhood she had wanted to come the United States and said the opportunity to teach locally proved dreams do come true. Yang explained that while attending university she met many students from Duke.
Previously, Yang taught Chinese in Thailand for three years. She said her major in college was teaching Chinese as a second language. She said former students in Thailand had already been recruited by companies because they spoke both languages.
“Most importantly (one benefit) is an understanding of Chinese people through studying their language,” Yang said. She talked about how language skills had helped many students better their lives. She said China is now the second biggest economy in the world and is the largest trading partner for the United States, which exports around 16,000 different products to China.
Yang told the Rotarians China is the second largest trading partner for North Carolina, Mexico being first, with exports from the state to China growing 431 percent between 2002 and 2008 alone.
“For a long time Chinese has been considered difficult (language) to learn,” Yang said, noting the languages uses characters instead of an alphabet. She said “practice make perfect” and said her 47 local students had all learned, in five days of class, how to greet and introduce themselves, commonly used phrases and could pronounce, write and how to count and pronounce the characters representing the numbers 1 through 99.
In an unrelated matter of club business, Marion Goldwasser and Joan Inman told members the board had agreed to match donations to qualify members as Paul Harris Fellows. The exceptional service honor typically amounts to around $1,000 and supports the club’s humanitarian projects. Mary Kilby told the group the annual Rotarian Literacy Project would return on Sept. 24 at Tharrington Primary School and on Sept. 26 at Flat Rock Elementary. Club members serve as volunteer readers for students.
David Broyles may be reached at 336-415-4739 or on Twitter@MtAiryNewsDave.