Monthly Archives: December 2013

Sunny Southern Utah welcome for Chinese guest teachers


If Utah leads the nation in Chinese language education with more public immersion programs than any other state, Washington County is the apotheosis.

Washington County School District – situated hundreds of miles south of the state’s bustling population center of Salt Lake – has five Chinese immersion programs, more than any other district.

It’s a feat that the district has managed, despite its relative isolation. There isn’t a ready pool of Chinese immigrants or university-trained Mandarin speakers from which to draw upon to staff the program. Instead, the district relies on guest teachers furnished through the Hanban, a division of the Ministry of Education in China. That, and good-old-fashioned hospitality.

To welcome the teachers, and help them settle into their new surroundings, Marybeth Fuller, the district’s dual immersion coordinator created a guidebook.

More than a mere pamphlet or list of helpful hints, the book contains a brief historical sketch describing how “Dixie” got its name, the area’s ancient Indian roots and influence of early pioneers. It touches on Utah’s economy and culture and spotlights popular destinations: natural wonders in National Parks, Mormon temples, and the shuttle bus to Las Vegas.

It also contains practical living tips, such as directions to area hospitals and how-to’s for obtaining a driver’s license, auto insurance and for buying or leasing a car.

“We don’t really have a transit system down here. You really are going to need a car,” said Fuller. “If I were in their shoes that’s what I would I want to know.”

Visitors to Utah this time of year probably think of snow-capped mountains, said Fuller. Nearly 80 percent of the state’s population lives in the mountainous northern part of the state known as the Wasatch Front.

“You’re going to pack differently and bring different stuff if you’re coming to southern Utah,” she said.

Fuller makes the guide available to guest teachers free of charge, but published it on for ease of access. It’s formatted for downloading on a smart phone or tablet, such as the iPad. Hard copies can be purchased for $2.71.

Parents protest Chicago-area immersion school

Here’s what can happen when tight educational resources pit parents against each other.

The Chicago Tribune reports:

“A group of residents in Lake Forest say they’re angry at the Lake Forest School District 67 board for continuing a Mandarin Chinese language program at CherokeeElementary School┬ádespite a lack of state funding….

Some parents argue the program has created divisions resulting in an at-times hostile environment in the school. District officials respond that they’re looking into the culture created by the program, but say its educational successes are clear.”

This is why it’s important to create inclusive school atmospheres. If we hold a Chinese activity at school, for example, we invite all students and bill it as a multicultural opportunity. Utah also consciously designed its program to avoid arguments over funding.

In Utah school funding follows the student and is constant, whether that student is in an immersion classroom or a traditional classroom. So the myth that immersion programs cost extra money simply isn’t true.

Utah has also done a good job at keeping up with demand for immersion programs, growing them at rates unprecedented nationally. This isn’t to say there aren’t districts with waiting lists. But if you’re willing to drive your student to a non-neighborhood school, or another district, chances are good you’ll find a program.

To argue against immersion programs is like saying we should abolish all magnet programs along with special and gifted education classes. Why deny a child a chance at an appropriate education just because your child’s educational needs are different?