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Columbus Teacher Finds Passion in Teaching Mandarin to Young Learners

Alexandria Schoo

November 2, 2022 -- After graduating college, Alexandria Schoo wasn’t sure where life would take her. 

At the time, Schoo, now a Mandarin teacher at Hubbard Elementary, had recently earned her Bachelor’s Degree in international diplomacy and ballet. She talked to one of her friends, who worked as an English teacher in China. He encouraged her to go the same career route.

“Two weeks after that conversation, I was in China,” Schoo recalled. “I didn’t know any Chinese. From there, I went to a little town in northern China, where I taught art, music, science, social studies, and global citizenship for a year in an after-school program.” 

She lived in Shenyang for the first year and then moved to Nanjing for the next two years. She taught under the First Leap program, where she trained more and more students each year and wrote lessons for the program.  

“I then started writing lessons for all schools, going back and forth to Beijing,” she said. “It was great. I loved it.” 

Mandarin educational materialsLife brought her back to Columbus. She had found a passion for teaching and knew which direction she wanted to go in her career. She earned her Master’s Degree in Teaching-Chinese K-12 from The Ohio State University. 

“When I came back, I decided that teaching is what I wanted to do,” she said. “I knew I wanted to teach little kids too, so I wanted to find a program where I could do that. I saw an opportunity at Hubbard Elementary and started my student teaching there.” 

She ended up staying at Hubbard Elementary, teaching Mandarin for the last five years. She sees Pre-K students once a week and Kindergarten-fifth grade students twice a week. 

“One thing I love too is teaching Pre-K students because you say something, and they just absorb it,” she said. “I love how little kids have no fear or embarrassment if they get something wrong. They always try out language and don’t care if they make a mistake in their sentences. I love how they get more confident as they learn a new language.” 

Schoo’s students learn by singing songs, playing games, and storytelling. Each year, the amount of Mandarin spoken in class increases.

“We will focus on concepts, such as a festival or celebration, and we will talk about it in English and Mandarin,” Schoo said. “We’re not just focusing on learning present or past tense for the day. Whatever words we need is what we learn, and eventually, students learn the pattern and sentence structure.” 

She also loves building camaraderie throughout the school and the local community. One example is the school’s Chinese New Year celebration. 

“It’s our biggest celebration, and it brings the whole school together,” she said. “During the school day, each teacher takes one part of Chinese New Year and makes it the theme of their classroom. Some kids may make dumplings in one room. We have confetti cannons that we count down for the new year. Students will get red envelopes from teachers if they can say the correct greetings to elders. The envelopes are full of husky tickets where they can win prizes. We have games and lion dancers. This year, we’re hoping to do it again.” 

Through celebrations and building vocabulary, Schoo enjoys watching students grow. Her favorite part is watching as students try something new, overcome challenges, and build confidence in the language and life. 

“I want them to feel capable and successful and have confidence in themselves that they can do hard things,” she said. “I see many kids get frustrated when they don’t immediately succeed, but we’re all in this together. I tell them it will take practice, but that’s fine. Then, by the end of the year, they’re working through it and excited to tell all their teachers all the words they know in Chinese.” 

Power of One

Priority 1 - Whole Child FocusedPriority 3 - Strong Learning Communities in Every RegionPriority 4 - Authentic EngagementPortrait Attribute 2 - CommunicationPortrait Attribute 4 - CreativityPortrait Attribute 5 - Global Empathy