Elementary pupils getting help learning Chinese from Cholla, Tucson High students
Students from Tucson and Cholla high magnet schools are stepping into classrooms, not as students but as teachers.
Kimberly Gaskill teaches Chinese at both high schools and her second-year students are teaching classes at Andy Tolson and Roskruge bilingual elementary schools.
Cholla High students go every Thursday afternoon to Gina Teixeira’s second-grade class at Tolson, 1000 S. Greasewood Road.
Gaskill’s Tucson High students walk every Friday morning to Roskruge, 501 E. Sixth St., and teach in Aida Garcia-Iniguez’s fifth-grade class.
Gaskill said the idea came from participating in the STARTALK program.
STARTALK is a program for teachers and students of Chinese and Arabic. Gaskill participated in the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University/Arizona State University program in July. STARTALK is held at different universities across the country and gives teachers classroom strategies.
“My principals were really eager,” Gaskill said.
Her students teach the culture and academics of subjects that they have already learned.
Katherine Ornelas, 18, a senior at Cholla, taught Teixiera’s class how to say the words for different relatives including grandfather, mother and little sister, and she had the students draw their own family trees.
“I think they’re having fun learning,” Ornelas, said. “That’s what’s really cool about it.”
Students from Cholla have been going to Tolson since October.
Teixeira’s class began with a whole unit on China and learned phrases like, “Hi, my name is.”
“It’s kind of hard, but it’s fun,” Sophia Pappas, 8, said.
Teixeira’s class was chosen for a trial period of the program, but the school would like to have the entire second grade learning Chinese, Teixeira said.
Students from Tucson High began teaching at Roskruge in January.
Fifth-grade teacher Aida Garcia-Iniguez was approached by administrators with the idea.
“You don’t get this opportunity all the time,” Garcia-Iniguez said.
Eric Gee, 17, and Alyssa Dolby, 18, both seniors at Tucson High, reviewed numbers in Chinese and taught her class how to say the date.
“I was really nervous personally,” Gee said.
Now they both wouldn’t mind going back.
“It’s fun to learn another language,” Angelica Moperi, 10, said. Garcia-Iniguez’s students also have lessons in Spanish literacy every Thursday and Friday.
“My high school kids have all been a little ambivalent … but I think the kids are also learning about classroom management and what their teachers have to go through everyday,” Gaskill said.
“I had a couple of boys come back and they’re like, ‘It took those kids a half hour to write their names in Chinese characters!’ ”
Students brainstorm before school and work with Gaskill to come up with a lesson plan.
Gaskill has been talking to other Chinese teachers in the district about expanding the program.
“Especially now, you know, with all the budget cuts and everything, it is still a chance for our kids to have language at schools, even though the money may not allow for it right now.”
She said it is by no means a substitute for having teachers in the classroom, “but it is a jumping point and hopefully something to get the kids interested and wanting to take the language when they get to high school.”