The April Dual Language Teacher of the Month is Di Lu!

We are thrilled to share that the April Dual Language Teacher of the Month is Di Lu, hailing from East Point Academy! Ms. Lu has been involved in education for 10 years since she studied English education in China and used to tutor students in English. After she graduated from UGA in 2016 with her masters’ degree in World Language Education, she started to teach Chinese at East Point Academy.

Ms. Lu’s biggest influence in becoming an educator was from her family. Being an educator has been in her genes because she grew up with many educators in her family. Her dad used to work in a college and he usually took her to work, so she would see him working with college students. She still remembers how many of his students cried in their graduation ceremony because they got received so much help from her dad. Even today, many of those students still keep in touch with her father. Her uncle is still teaching in college and has taught different subjects (math, computer science, etc) in different cities and schools in China. Both her dad and uncle taught her that being an educator is about serving the students and supporting them to a brighter future, which she truly believes and has decided to devote herself to for all her life.

I always wanted to work in a language immersion school during my graduate study. I want to not only teach Mandarin as a world language, but also educate my students how to use the language in the real world and appreciate the cultural diversity. Upon graduation, I heard about East Point Academy from a friend of mine, and I got to know EPA was the very first Mandarin immersion school in South Carolina. I came here for a school tour and an interview, in which I was immediately amazed by its learning environment: students greeted you in Mandarin, they said pledge in Mandarin, and they learned math, science, and even a lot of the related art class in Mandarin. At that moment, I knew I found my dream job. I have been here since then and this is my fifth year teaching here.

Ms. Lu’s favorite part of being a teacher is to help students grow into global citizens. Her purpose of teaching Mandarin is not only to help her  students to speak the language, but to expand their horizons, open their minds to the world, and bridge cultures together. She’d like to empower her students to communicate with people from all different backgrounds confidently, respectfully, and effectively .

Ms. Lu has also has conducted research in the field, and had the privilege to work with her assistant principal Ms. Junlan Li over the years and to conduct research under her guidance and help. They presented at the 7th International Bilingual and Immersion Education Conference in Charlotte, North Carolina on Feb. 9th, 2019 with the focus of “An Action Research on Strategies of Improving Chinese Writing Proficiency—Using AAPPL as Assessment Tool”. She also worked with Ms. Junlan Li’s for her doctoral study with the focus of incorporating blended learning in the foreign language classrooms for hybrid learning from November 2020-January 2021.

Di says that this research is constantly benefiting her daily teaching. The data collected from the research helped her refine her teaching. For instance, over the years, she saw students struggling with writing in Mandarin. They didn’t like to write, they didn’t know what to write and they could not write a proper passage, even if some of them had been studying Chinese for quite a few years. Through the ideas of “5-step writing strategy”, students are taking small steps each phrase and they can see their progress along the way. So in the end, they know how writing a passage in Chinese works! Below, is Ms. Lu’s  “5-step writing strategy” here:

Step 1 Draw pictures for your story

Step 2 Write with key words

Step 3 Write with extended vocabulary

Step 4 Connect different parts

Step 5: Finalize the whole passage

For the other research “incorporating blended learning in the classroom for hybrid learning”, it is much needed for her to try this new teaching strategy during this pandemic. She was terrified to teach both online and on campus students at the same time, but after applying this strategy to her classroom, she firmly believes that synchronized learning can be fun and all students can be engaged.

I personally feel that my classroom stands out because I keep adding new things in my teaching, from new content, new topics, to new activities and new technologies. Students that have me for years will not be bored. They are always engaged in challenging work, and exploring new things about the language and culture. 

Ms. Lu sees in language teaching the connection to the real situation and real world, so she always introduces authentic materials (songs, movies, TV shows, etc) to her students and encourages them to seek opportunities to use Mandarin in their daily life. In the past (before COVID-19), she often scheduled field trips to local Asian supermarkets or colleges that offer Mandarin as a major, to give her students a sense that what they learn in class is useful and applicable to the real world. She also offered support and help to her students who participated in the Palmetto Star competition (an annual Mandarin language and culture performance competition in South Carolina), giving them suggestions to their performance and practicing with them. In 2019, she had two students who were selected to go to Washington D.C. for the National Chinese Bridge Language Competition, one of them won first place and the other won third place.

To me, biliteracy means that my students not only have the ability to communicate with others in Mandarin and English in speaking, but they are comfortable reading and writing in Mandarin too. Listening, speaking, reading, and writing are equally important in Mandarin learning. In addition, Mandarin should not just be a language class, it’s a bridge to connect with a different culture.

Ms. Lu makes a point to tell her students that you are not learning Mandarin as a language, but you can use it to understand content from other subjects. She likes to incorporate content from other subjects in her lessons, like to calculate discounts from math class, to discuss social problems from social studies, to learn about change of season and different types of clouds from science, etc. In this way,  students gain understanding of interdisciplinary cooperation, and see the usefulness of Mandarin (and learning any other languages too).

She sees her students as future leaders and intercultural communication ambassadors. Through learning a new language, students constantly have to apply problem solving skills to negotiate meaning with peers and the teacher, to do research to learn about a new culture, and to switch their language of communication when they face different people. Therefore, her students are not afraid of making mistakes, they are willing to face challenges and provide solutions. She sees them as cultural ambassadors because they have deeper understanding and empathy for people from different races and cultural backgrounds, they are interested in learning about a new language and culture and communicating with people from different places in the world.

I would like to model for my students as a life-long learner. My favorite quote is from John Cotton Dana, “He who dares to teach must never cease to learn.” It summarizes my belief in teaching— always try new things and add new things to my teaching. I love to share with my students new phrases I learned in Mandarin and give them the opportunities to explore the language and culture. What I like to hear the most is when my students say “I learn something new everyday!”

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