Man­darin school thrilled with new cam­pus

China Daily (USA) - - ACROSS AMERICA - ByMAYZHOU in Hous­ton mayzhou@chi­nadai­lyusa.com

It’s an amaz­ing school, and it took us seven years to get here.” Harvin Moore, Hous­ton In­de­pen­dewnt School District trustee

Man­darin Im­mer­sion Mag­net School (MIMS), one of the largest im­mer­sion schools teach­ing Man­darin Chi­nese in the US, on Mon­day cel­e­brated its new $32 mil­lion cam­pus si­t­u­ated in the Gal­le­ria district.

The Hous­ton In­de­pen­dent School District (HISD) es­tab­lished MIMS in 2012. It started with pre-kindergarten through sec­ond grades with an ad­di­tional grade added each year.

It now serves more than 500 pre-K to sixth-grade stu­dents with the last two grades to be added by 2018. Be­fore this fall, MIMS had been housed in a small ele­men­tary school built in 1953.

With a build­ing de­sign themed in Chi­nese bright red, a school logo of a dragon and phoenix, col­or­ful lanterns, and Chi­nese cal­lig­ra­phy and dragon dances, the cel­e­bra­tion took on a dis­tinc­tively Chi­nese cul­tural fla­vor.

“Our build­ing was de­signed to re­flect the sun and moon. There are a lot of bright col­ors with nat­u­ral lights com­ing in. There are state-of-the-art sci­ence labs, ded­i­cated space for tech­nol­ogy, art and mu­sic. Dur­ing the past two short months here, we all have really fallen in love with this space,” Chao-Lin Chang, MIMS prin­ci­pal, said in wel­com­ing re­marks.

Ac­cord­ing to Chang, of the school’s 25 cur­rent teach­ers, 13 are Chi­nese-speak­ing. “Our goal is to have about 50 teach­ers when the school is at full ca­pac­ity, with about 900 stu­dents from pre-K to eighth grade. We will al­ways main­tain our Chi­nese teach­ers’ ra­tio at 50 per­cent.”

By the time stu­dents com­plete eighth grade, they will have the high school course equiv­a­lent in Chi­nese. Sup­port­ing them in pur­suit of con­tin­u­ing their Chi­nese-lan­guage study is an­other is­sue for the school to con­sider, Chang said.

HISD pub­lic data show that the MIMS de­mo­graphic is made up of roughly 31 per­cent Asians, and 20 per­cent white, His­panic and African-Amer­i­can stu­dents.

HISD trustee Harvin Moore told how the school got started.

“It’s an amaz­ing school, and it took us seven years to get here,” Moore said. “It was lit­er­ally seven years ago that the su­per­in­ten­dent at that time told me that I ought to visit China with the Col­lege Board to learn about dual-lan­guage pro­grams. He said that Man­darin would be great for our stu­dents.

“On that trip, I met a prin­ci­pal from San Diego who ran a school much like this one. Af­ter see­ing it work­ing well in San Diego, I thought it could and would work in Hous­ton,” Moore said, ad­ding that kids get smarter when im­mersed in two lan­guages from a young age.

Moore, who sent his son to MIMS, called the school a great suc­cess, with a wait­ing list of eight stu­dents for each avail­able spot.

“When the school is fully built up in two more years, it will be the largest in the na­tion,” Moore said.

“I was here since it started from first grade. In Chi­nese classes, we learn sci­ence, math and Chi­nese, and we learn the rest of our sub­jects in English,” said Eden Roberts, a sixth grader and vice pres­i­dent of the MIMS Stu­dent Coun­cil. “Half of the teach­ers teach in Chi­nese only. They use pic­tures and body lan­guage to help us un­der­stand. It’s fun and it works. We don’t just learn Man­darin; we also learn about Chi­nese cul­ture. We talk a lot about values,” Roberts said.

Texas state Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Gene Wu said that MIMS truly rep­re­sents where Hous­ton is go­ing, where Texas is go­ing, and where the US is go­ing.

“Asian Amer­i­can is the fastest grow­ing group in the en­tire na­tion. If you drive down from here to Westchase district, you will see that many Chi­nese com­pa­nies are mov­ing in from over­seas to build their re­gional head­quar­ters in the US in Hous­ton. It’s the wel­com­ing spirit of a school like this; it’s this type of em­brace of ev­ery­one from ev­ery walk of life and ev­ery cul­ture that is draw­ing peo­ple to our city,” Wu said.

Chi­nese Con­sul Duan Fenghua was im­pressed with the stu­dents’ Man­darin speak­ing.

“Al­ready they can use Chi­nese flu­ently to ex­press them­selves. The stu­dents are the lead­ers of the fu­ture. They are not only learn­ing the lan­guage but also the cul­ture. They will have a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of di­ver­sity. This is the first such Chi­nese im­mer­sion school in Texas. We would cer­tainly like to lend some sup­port in the fu­ture,” said Duan.

MAY ZHOU / CHINA DAILY

From right, Hous­ton City Coun­cil Member Mike Laster, HISD trustee Harvin Moore, Man­darin Im­mer­sion Mag­net School Prin­ci­pal Chao-Lin Chang along with state Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Gene Wu (left) and other par­tic­i­pants open­ing the school’s new cam­pus on Mon­day in Hous­ton.

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