Shaker’s Chinese program was born out of necessity and opportunity. The district needed to fulfill a world language requirement for the International Baccalaureate program, and the Chinese government offered a solution.
Through an exchange program, the Hanban (Confucius Institute Headquarters) worked with the Chinese Ministry of Education to send Chinese teachers to Shaker Heights, providing an economical opportunity to fulfill IB world language requirements.
Hanban paid the teachers’ salaries in full, while Shaker paid for fringe benefits such as transportation and housing. This provided Shaker with cheap and native Chinese teachers. “We couldn’t have done the IB program without them,” said Assistant Superintendent Bernice Stokes. “Hanban covered the cost.”
As the Chinese language program continues, the payment plans change. According to district treasurer Bryan Christman, the Hanban Chinese teachers receive a new teacher’s salary of $43,000. “Hanban pays $13,000; we pay $30,000,” Christman said. Next year, Shaker will pick up the remaining $13,000 on the tab, making the teachers fully district-paid. The teachers will be responsible for their own housing and transportation.
Despite Woodbury students’ criticisms, Stokes sees the Chinese classes as a curricular improvement. She explained that social studies is a part of the Chinese curriculum. “Teaching the Chinese culture is a big part of the language. The social piece is very important.”
High school students taking Chinese seem to feel positive about the language, despite what their younger counterparts say. “Chinese is a great class. Ms. Li is a great teacher,” sophomore Alexandra Gaines said.
Though she holds that Chinese is a valuable class to high school students, Gaines said that it shouldn’t take precedent in elementary schools. “Social studies is more important than Chinese,” said Gaines. “It’s always good to start learning early, but social studies is more important.”
Cover Story Editors Alysse Eberhard, Marissa Miller and Rachel Shaw contributed to this story.
A version of this article appeared in print on 20 April 2012, on pages 8 and 9 of The Shakerite.