As the number of students interested in learning Chinese as a heritage language or foreign language continues to grow, the number of Mandarin dual language/immersion (DL/I) programs across the state of North Carolina has also increased. According to the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, there are now 22 Mandarin DL/I programs in the state. The growth of the program has led to a need for more Mandarin DL/I teachers who are well-prepared to support K-12 multilingual students in North Carolina.
As a visiting teacher, Hanxuan (Karena) Zhang (MAT TESOL) teaches kindergarten Mandarin DL/I at Stough Magnet Elementary in Wake County Public Schools. She teaches language arts, math, social studies, and science in both Chinese and English in her classroom and the students have no trouble following instructions and sharing their ideas in both languages in her class. Her students demonstrated such high levels of Chinese language proficiency in listening, speaking, reading, and writing that one of her students won second prize in the Chinese Speech Contest hosted by North Carolina State University in 2020, while another student’s essay was selected to be included in the “American K-12 Outstanding Chinese Works” published by the Chinese Language Teachers Association (CLTA), the leading organization in the Chinese language teaching field in the United States.
Karena shared that she believes children learn by example and she wants to model their love of learning. She has participated in ongoing professional development to enhance her knowledge and skills as a teacher, and her participation in the STARTALK teacher program at UNC Greensboro in the summer of 2021 led to continued enhancement of her abilities to engage with students. During 2021-2022, Karena facilitated a professional learning community involving kindergarten Mandarin teachers from seven North Carolina schools that allowed them to share their experiences at the CLTA conference. The presentation received the 2021-22 Beijing Language and Culture University Press (BLCUP) Award for K-12 Professional Development. Karena has also started work in the Masters of Arts in Teaching program in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) at UNC Greensboro.
Karena’s dedication and commitment to Chinese language teaching have also been recognized by the Wake County Public School System (WCPSS) and Participate Learning. She was the #ThankATeacher winner and received the Teacher of the Year award from Participate Learning. With support from her school, Participate Learning, and UNC Greensboro, Karena is excited to work with her colleagues and peers to engage in research activities to further connect theories and practices for multilingual teaching and learning.