SLSD Opens its Doors to Other Languages and CulturesSaturday, December 10, 2011 By Casey Anthony, Robyn Somers, Ashley Zamichieli
Southern Lehigh is opening its doors to many new opportunities. Chinese and Arabic languages are among the new additions that Southern Lehigh is integrating into its curriculum. Thanks to assistant superintendent, Dr. Leah Christman, Southern Lehigh is lucky to have teachers from both cultures here to teach students. The new teachers integrate both their cultures and their native languages into the curriculum. How did Southern Lehigh become fortunate to have two native speakers as teachers? In 2009, Dr. Christman attended a conference in Berks County where she learned that schools in that area were receiving guest Chinese teachers. Dr. Christman thought this was a great idea for our district and decided to ask permission to participate in the program. As a result, during the 2010-2011 school year, Southern Lehigh welcomed Chinese teacher Yu Qingchu on behalf of the Confucius Institute. Once again, we are fortunate enough to host yet another Chinese teacher, and also an Arabic teacher, for the 2011- 2012 term. Dr. Christman reflected on the benefits of the program stating, “I feel learning about China and the Middle East are critical skills that will benefit our students for their futures. The world is changing quickly, and business connections and communications with these regions of the world are very important for the future and for the US.” This program has been a great addition to the Southern Lehigh curriculum. Currently we have two teachers here, Ms. Leiyen Guo, and Ms. Alishimaa Nofal, who are completely new to the American culture, and the United States in general. Both are excited to be here and are ready to share their cultures with the students of Southern Lehigh. In addition to pursuing her Masters Degree, Ms. Leyien Guo teaches Chinese at both the high school and middle school. Her favorite part of teaching is showing students the diversity of the culture. Since Leiyen Guo is only at Southern Lehigh for about a year, she wants to learn and acquaint herself with as much of the American culture as she possibly can. While here she has already noticed the importance of students understanding different cultures. “There is a Chinese idiom [about] seeking common ground while accepting the existing differences,” says Ms. Leiyen Guo, quoting Qiu Tong Cun Yi. Her goal is to show students that as the world changes, they must learn to accept different people and their values, such as different languages, accents, and lifestyles. Our newest change in the world language department is the opportunity for students who take Arabic to receive face-to-face instruction from a classroom teacher. Prior to this year, Southern Lehigh had only offered online instruction in the Arabic language. Each day students met with one of two female Arab teachers in an online classroom where they could communicate via video chat. The days students were not meeting online with their virtual teacher, they completed workbooks and worksheets. Everything has changed now. Ms. Alishmaa Nofal is from Alexandria, Egypt, and ready to teach! She comes to us from an Egyptian town by the Mediterranean Sea, and is staying with a sponsor family throughout the duration of her visit this year. Ms. Nofal was one of ten teachers chosen from over 500 applicants for the teacher exchange program for the 2011-2012 school year. She has been to the United States before, but only for a short period of time. She likes Pennsylvania because its tranquil atmosphere contrasts the city environment she is accustomed to back home. Despite the large distance, the United States and Egypt are not all that different. Ms. Nofal talks about the similarities she has noticed: “Food, cars, students, and schools. There are more similarities than differences, actually.” In regards to her aspirations, she commented, “I hope to establish the basic foundation for teaching Arabic, and that my students will be motivated to carry on with the language.” Southern Lehigh students are excited about the opportunity to learn more about the Chinese and Arabic languages and cultures. We welcome Ms. Guo and Ms. Nofal and hope that they enjoy their stay!