With China continuing to flex its manufacturing muscles in the global economy, more high schools are adding or expanding course offerings in Mandarin Chinese.
Huntley Unit District 158 has teamed up with Michigan State University to bring in a second Mandarin teacher from China, while Streamwood High School in Elgin Area School District U-46 has added the language to its world languages academy curriculum.
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Though the course was approved in U-46 four years ago, viable numbers were not reached until the current school year, said Mark Atkins, department chair for language arts and the World Language and International Studies Academy at Streamwood.
"We haven't had a lot of interest over the years," Atkins said. "But more students and parents are aware that China is becoming a business power and an economic force in the world, so they need to address it."
In the first year, 28 students signed up for Mandarin.
Huntley High School has offered Mandarin since 2008 and offers Chinese I through Advance Placement Chinese. This year, the district added a second teacher to its staff through a partnership with the Confucius Institute at Michigan State University, which recruits and trains Chinese citizens to teach Mandarin in American schools.
"With (Mandarin) teachers being in high demand in the suburbs, it was an opportunity for us to hook up with Michigan State, which has a great reputation in education, to supply us with a strong candidate," said Mike Moan, chief academic officer in District 158. "We don't have to worry about the market dictating our staffing needs or our ability to hire."
The partnership will cost District 158 $45,000 for the 2012-2013 school year, which covers the teacher's salary, support and coaching, fringe benefits, visa paperwork and international airfare. Moan said the district can retain the teacher for up to three years.