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By Greg Hugh, Staff Writer

Brzezinski and Wong present interactive poster

The Confucius Institute at the University of Minnesota (CIUMN) was the site of the recent Chinese Language Teachers of Minnesota Conference. In years past, this annual conference had been hosted by Margaret Wong at Breck School but now that CIUMN has opened, Joan Brzezinski, Acting Director of CIUMN, invited the group to meet at its recently opened facility located at the University International Center.

The half-day conference began at 5:30 p.m.with a buffet dinner catered by the Tea House restaurant.

The formal part of the conference began promptly at 6:15 p.m. when Margaret Wong requested that the group take their seats in the meeting room.  She then officially welcomed the teachers by describing how this annual meeting began with just 10 people in attendance, gradually grew to about 25 people in recent years and expanded to currently over 77 in attendance.

In her opening remarks, Ms. Wong thanked Ms. Brzezinski for hosting the conference and stated “How fortunate we are to have such an organization right in our midst.”  She then noted that CIUMN is acollaborative initiative between the University of Minnesota, the Council for Chinese Language International (Hanban) and Capital Normal University in Beijing and was created to promote the study of Chinese language and culture throughout Minnesota.

Wong then introduced Brzezinski to comment further on CIUMN.  According to Brzezinski, CIUMN is one of 40 Confucius Institutes in the United States and nearly 250 worldwide.  It took over two years of planning to b echosen as the first Confucius Institute in Minnesota. Confucius Institutes are named for the Chinese philosopher known for encouraging deep independent thought and the study of the outside world.

Since the stated mission of CUIMN is to promote the study of Chinese language and culture throughout Minnesota, Brzezinski stated that she is planning to implement this mission with a staff that now consists of two temporary members and will be further expanded when a co-director from China joins the staff in January, 2009.

Before continuing her presentation, Brzezinski, took a survey of the group to get an idea of the origins of the teachers and there appeared to be a fair representation of mainland China,Taiwan,the United States,and even one from Brazil.  The group was also representative of education levels which included immersion, K-12 and university.

China Insight was also invited to speak to the group regarding a listing of Chinese language schools in Minnesota.  This list was started by Wong and has been published by China Insight which has offered to maintain the listing that is now available at the Web site www.chinainsight.info.  All teachers are welcome to submit their listing to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The next item on the agenda was a presentation of the types of resources and proposed programs for teachers which will include a mentor program along with access to CIUMN’s library.  Within the library, teachers will have access to books, DVDs, CDs, teaching aids flash cards,posters, maps, etc.  Much of this material has been created by Hanban and is also available for purchase directly from them.  To demonstrate the type of material being offered, the group was shown an interactive poster that responds to a pointer with audio answers.

(insertphoto of poster)

Also to be developed is a curriculum for Chinese holidays and special events.  There also will be resources and programs for schools that will assist administrators in starting a Chinese language program,creation of a school exchange network with counter parts in China and assistance in sourcing and hiring Chinese language teachers.

To assist teachers in their professional development, CIUMN will sponsor summer workshops, lectures/seminars and training workshops both in Minnesota and in China.

According to Brzezinski, CIUMN plans to develop a number of student programs that willinclude its successful China Day event, create a Library Language Corner, plana Hanban trip and U of M Summer Camp. Perhaps the most interesting proposal -- she is considering hosting a “ChinaIdol” competition.  This is still verymuch in the planning stages but stay tuned for more developments on thisproject.

 In additionto these programs, Brzezinski stated that there would be additional coordinatedcampus activities, cooperative programs with the Minnesota Department ofEducation and classes for the general public such as Family Chinese and Introduction to Kung Fu that are now being offered.  There are also plans to be approved as a test center for various Chinese language tests. 

After a shortbreak, the program continued when the following teachers made presentations on their experiences of teaching, training and study in China this past summer:  Donna Kelly (Patrick Henry High School), Patty Anderson (Macalester College) and Kristine Wogstad (Highland Park Junior High School). A representative of the School Year Abroad Study Program in China, Sara Bernstein explained to the teachers how their students can apply to study in China during their high school years.

The last part of the conference was a curriculum swap during which the teachers were asked to share their lesson plan, a song, a worksheet, a game or a short report with each other.  No doubt the students or most of these teachers will know that their teachers were busy working during MEA break and will enjoy the benefits of their attendance at this conference.

Wong concluded the conference by again thanking Joan Brzezinski for hosting the event and reiterating the good fortune that Chinese teachers now have a home at the Confucius Institute.  There was unanimous hope that the Confucius Institute will host teacher workshops throughout the year, for new teachers to learn from more experienced teachers not only on curriculum, but especially on classroom management strategies. 

The ConfuciusInstitute is located at 160 University International Center, 331-17th Avenue SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414. For more information please contact the Confucius Institute at the University of Minnesota.  Telephone: 612-625-5080, e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and visit the CIUMN Web site at www.confucius.umn.edu. 

 

 

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About

CHINAINSIGHT (CI) is published monthly ((except July/August and November/December are combined) by China Insight, Inc., an independent, privately owned company started in 2001 and headquartered in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota.

CHINAINSIGHT is the only English-language American newspaper to focus exclusively on connections between the United States and the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Our goal is to develop a mutual understanding of each other’s cultures and business environments and to foster U.S.-China cultural and business harmony.