fORTVILLE — When school officials greeted Yi-Fan Lin at the airport last week, they told her there was one English phrase she hadn’t yet learned but was about to discover: “Hoosier hospitality.”
And since traveling to America from Taiwan last week, that’s all she’s experienced, she said.
Lin traveled approximately 7,600 miles from Taipei City, Taiwan, to Fortville to teach Mandarin to Mt. Vernon High School students as part of an expansion of the school’s international programming.
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This year, for the first time, the school is offering Mandarin — the most widely used language in China — as part of its world languages classes.
To give students the best experience in learning the language, the school partnered with the Ministry of Education in Taiwan to bring a Taiwanese teacher to the states, with the ministry and the school district agreeing to share the cost of her salary.
During the summer, Superintendent Shane Robbins and high school principal Greg Roach traveled to Taiwan for 48 hours to interview teachers for the position. Lin stood out, Roach said.
She spoke English well and was eager to work with local students, he said.
Lin, who paid for her trip and is staying with Robbins’ family, studied English in college and has a master’s degree in English and Mandarin education. It’s not her first time in the U.S.; she spent about six months in St. Louis, Missouri, as part of a previous exchange program and was eager to return to the states, she said.
“We’re very excited about her passion and energy for our kids,” Roach said. “I think she’s going to have a neat impact on our school district.”
The school spent weeks lining up travel accommodations and plans for Lin, and she arrived in Indianapolis last week. Her first day teaching students was Aug. 9.
She’s committed to spending at least one school year in Fortville, but her time here could be extended to two years, she said.
About 20 students are enrolled in the Mandarin course this fall. An advanced course will be offered in the spring once students have one semester of learning the language under their belt.
School officials also want to add Mandarin to the world language course at the middle school, which gives students an introduction to the languages available to learn at the high school.
Robbins’ and Roach’s goal during their visit to Taiwan was two-fold — they interviewed teachers for the Mandarin position at the high school but also talked with Taiwan education officials about establishing a sister school in Taipei City. They hope to bring a group of Taiwanese students to Fortville this spring and in the future send Mt. Vernon students there, Roach said.
The school district wants to give students a well-rounded cultural experience, Roach said. Offering the Mandarin course and establishing a sister school would expose students to the Asian culture.
And so far, students are excited about the opportunity to learn a new language. Roach’s daughter is one of the students enrolled in the class, and Roach said he loves hearing about what they’re learning.
“It’s really neat to hear my daughter talk about learning a language that’s completely different. It’s not Spanish or French,” he said.
Alaina Nelson, a junior, signed up to take Mandarin because she was looking to learn a unique language, she said. She’s dreamed about traveling to Taiwan since she was a little girl, and learning the language could help get her to the country and navigate better during the trip, she said.
The course is challenging, but it’s fun, too, she said.
Learning the language from a native speaker is an experience not many students get, she said, and she’s really excited to learn from Lin. Beyond teaching just the language, Lin is able to introduce students to the Chinese culture, as well.
When she saw the job posted on the Ministry of Education website, she knew she had to apply, she said.
She enjoyed living in the United States and experiencing the culture. In the next year, she’s looking forward to immersing herself in the United States’ culture.
She wants to go to sporting events, specifically football games — which aren’t common in Taiwan — she’s looking forward to watching November’s election unfold, and she can’t wait to celebrate Christmas.
But mostly, she’s excited about teaching students about where she comes from and helping them to learn a new language.
“I love my students,” she said.
Yi-Fan Lin was tapped to be the Mandarin teacher at Mt. Vernon High School. She comes to Fortville from Taipei City, Taiwan, and will spend at least one year in Fortville teaching students Mandarin and about the Chinese culture. She studied English in college and has a master’s degree in teaching English and Mandarin.