By Superintendent Dr. David Leach, Warwick Valley Central School District
Mila Chan teaches. She is also a first-grade student. Mila is inspired by learning and transfers that knowledge into teaching her fellow students Mandarin, Chinese.
The six-year-old has been mentoring her classmates in the acquisition of Mandarin. Each day, students in teacher Donna Berghahn’s Distance Learning Academy class learn a little more and review what they have covered.
Mila’s family is having her honor her culture by learning Mandarin at home. Her father, Nelson Chan, has family from Hong Kong and her mom, Elizabeth Chan, comes from Taiwan. Mandarin is the most widely spoken language in China. Two-thirds of its native speakers speak Mandarin.
How does she teach her friends?
“I just unmute myself,” Mila said matter-of-factly. “And I just say it.”
With the help of her mother, Mila gathers up Mandarin words to teach. She practices speaking them at home. Then, she shares the sayings, common words, favorite animals, or numbers on Google slides with the class. On Mondays, she introduces the new words with the slides. She says the word. Then, the class repeats the word after her. They practice the learning in short, two- to three-minute lessons throughout the week.
Of course, Mila gets help from Ms. Berghahn. Sometimes, they pick words that match up with the lessons in Ms. Berghahn’s class, like numbers or topical events, such as the election.
Recently, they gave the class a “test” on what they learned. When asked how her classmates did, Mila said, “Good.”
Mila is active. She plays tennis and takes voice and piano lessons. She loves to read. Her two favorite subjects are math and reading. She said she likes to do her schoolwork and her mother and father help out. She doesn’t know, however, how much time she spends on her studies every day but she works hard. When she grows up, Mila wants to be a veterinarian or a doctor, like her mother.
“Mila likes to finish her work,” her mother said. “She can’t stop until she finishes. She has to finish everything as soon as she starts it.”
Mila, who has a twin brother, Dylan, and a younger sister, Annabel, has taken an interest in working with her mother and Ms. Berghahn to teach her class.
“It was evident that they were studying her family’s culture. So, when there’s an opportunity to encourage that family-based learning I try to use it in the classroom. Family-based learning gives the students a sense of pride and for Mila learning about her Asian heritage was an excellent opportunity,” Ms. Berghahn said. “I just thought of it one day as an enrichment. It’s a fun way to honor their culture and encourage learning with everybody else.”
Each week, Warwick Valley Central School District Superintendent Dr. David Leach shines the “Superintendent’s Spotlight” on one of Warwick Valley’s amazing students. “Superintendent’s Spotlight” features students who reach goals, face challenges, and are role models to their peers.