VALPARAISO -- When 27 current and future educators leave for China June 25, they will take a step toward the future in the worlds of business and politics.
"China is an increasingly powerful economic and political force in the world, so there is a need to bolster Chinese studies at the primary and secondary levels," said Zhimin Lin, chairman of Valparaiso University's Chinese and Japanese Studies Program.
Candace Crockett agrees.
Crockett, a Portage High School social studies teacher, will be one of 27 participants nationwide who will travel in the month-long VU Summer Immersion Program for Educators.
"I want to teach Chinese to high schoolers or middle schoolers ... I want to be part of building a Chinese program either in Northwest Indiana or Chicago," Crockett said, adding she began learning the Chinese language as a junior at Portage High 10 years ago.
"The Chinese have done a very good job of learning English for several years. Americans are behind," said Crockett, who will be visiting China for the third time.
Crockett said learning the language demonstrates respect and is practical in light of China's growing economy.
Lin said that VU's program is designed to help educators integrate or expand Chinese language and cultural studies into their schools' kindergarten through senior year curriculum.
The program participants -- teachers, education students and administrators -- will be involved in educational activities that include:
* Language training and lectures on Chinese culture four days weekly.
* Trips to Beijing, Yellow Mountain and schools in other cities to learn Chinese teaching methods, curriculum and administration thrice weekly.
* A workshop on effective teaching methods and materials for primary and secondary students being taught Chinese language and culture.
Crockett said she understands there is a growing market for Chinese language teachers who can instruct adults doing business in China.
Last year was the first time the China summer program was offered by Valparaiso University, and there were 23 participants.
Valparaiso has a study center in Hangzhou and has established a partnership with Zhejiang University and Zhejiang University of Technology to offer the immersion program.
For more information on the Chinese and Japanese studies programs, visit online at valpo.edu/cjsp.