Boulder Creek Mandarin
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Mandarin classes grow at Boulder Creek

Alex Stevenson~ 11/5/2014

ANTHEM – Three years since its inception at Boulder Creek High School’s World Languages Dept., the school’s Mandarin program “continues to grow and build,” according to principal Lauren Sheahan.

The program has been built from the ground up, beginning in 2011 with the first level to four different class levels – including an AP section. Nearby Diamond Canyon School and Gavilan Peak School both offer Mandarin basics to seventh and eighth-graders, acting as “feeders” into the high school’s program.

Sheahan also said that the school’s push for a greater global perspective has “encouraged students to take a world language.”

Jennifer Whitten, Director of the W.P. Carey School’s Graduate Career Services, sees this global perspective pay off firsthand.

“We are now a truly global economy, and East Asia remains a major player in that economy,” she said.

“While any second language skill will increase someone’s opportunity in the job market,” she continued, “the US has particularly strong commercial ties in the region, making Mandarin a great asset to those going into business.”

Carol Bi is Boulder Creek’s resident Mandarin teacher. Born in Guangzhou, China, Bi “never thought that I’d leave my province when I was in high school,” according to her BCHS biography page.

Bi’s favorite part about teaching? The students.

“Mandarin is a very difficult language to learn, I’d say one of the hardest for a native English speaker. I’m so inspired by students who take on this challenge,” she said.

Bi referenced one instance that she couldn’t get to work due to weather conditions, and a student inquired where she’d been on the board, completely in Chinese.

“It almost brought tears to my eyes to see this student use their learning in such a way.”

When asked if much had changed from an educator’s standpoint over the last three years, Bi said students were “more prepared – many get their feet wet at the feeder schools.” However, Bi maintained that it is more than possible to excel in the program without prior experience with the language.

Boulder Creek ninth-grader Celeste Castillo went with another of the school’s second language options: Spanish.

“I took Mandarin at Diamond Canyon in the 7th grade. It was fun, but I just don’t think it’s as useful as Spanish,” she said, referencing Arizona’s proximity to Mexico as an example of its usefulness.

“There are just more job opportunities here with Spanish,” she said.

Kael Mahoney, a 12th-grader taking AP Mandarin at the high school, disagrees.

Mahoney wants to pursue a career “somewhere in the engineering fields – it’s definitely a language you need to learn with any sort of technical job,” he said.

“I’ve always had an interest in the language, and everyone else seems to take Spanish or French – I thought, it’s the new program, why not?”

Principal Sheahan had said that as “our campus has grown, we also see more students in French and Spanish.”

With increasing student interest prompting so many different levels, and a stable importance of the language on the global economic stage, Mandarin may become the new ‘second language must.’

Jennifer Whitten says that even “faculty at W.P. Carey are picking up Mandarin – now seems to be the time.”