GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The Gulfport School District is cranking up its language arts strategic goal with a long look into the future.
This year, Mandarin Chinese is being introduced to the elementary and middle schools in hopes of expanding minds and expanding future careers.
It’s one of the most important languages in the world of business, but for now, it’s just fun.
“When I walk by them in the hallway, they’ll speak to me in Chinese,” said West Elementary School principal Joshua Lindsey. “I’m having to learn it myself to I can respond to them. So, they’re so excited to show me and tell me what they’ve learned.”
Each school gets a month of the program. This is the first full week of the program at West Elementary.
Already, it’s had an impact.
“They sit still when she’s talking because they’ve never heard the things that she’s saying before,” said art teacher Shaylah Pringle, "and it’s really interesting to them. You can tell from the second that they walk in.”
It’s created a deeper interest in student Jordan Elizabeth Thomas
“Learning Mandarin Chinese from Ms. Gong, it has me more confident, it has made me want to maybe explore other cultures,” she said.
Gong came to the United States five years ago to pursue a master’s degree in secondary education at William Carey University.
“They always tell me what they did after school whenever they go home, what they shared with their parents and grandparents what they learned of the day,” she said. “That really makes me proud.”
One of the goals in the strategic plan was to have some foreign languages infused into elementary and middle schools by 2023.
It’s not just about the language itself. Understanding the culture is also important.
“The reason we chose Mandarin Chinese is because it’s an over-reaching language of five different dialects,” said Sandy Commer-East with the school district. “It is another language that makes sense for our students to learn for international business in a global society.”
Gong got the job after a chance meeting with Superintendent Glen East.
“I really, really enjoy it. I love this job,” she said. “I learn a lot from the kids everyday as well. I’m an English learner. I benefit from learning English, and I wish these kids can be like me in the future see the different world and do different things and have more options to make a choice in their lives.”
Next year, it will become a full-time program at Gulfport High School.