AUSTINBURG TOWNSHIP —
Sometimes Claire Restad doesn’t understand what Ming He is saying, but they have a lot of fun talking about it, anyway.
Claire, 3, is one of several preschool-age children taught by 19-year-old He, of China, and his friends, at Grand River Academy.
“The international students volunteer their time to teach the children Mandarin Chinese once a week,” international student adviser Angela Thomas said. “Ming started the project. He works with the children on language skills and with the parents on pronunciation.”
He, along with Jeff Li, Alex Ye, Nicholas Chen and Johnson Zhans, all from China, work with the five children on identifying colors, body parts, counting and more.
Li, 18, said he didn’t know much English when he came to the United States to study at Grand River Academy.
“That was the hardest thing for me,” he said. “People were talking and I had no idea what they were saying. I like that I can teach the kids Chinese and watch them learn as I learned when I came here.”
Li said teaching small children is challenging but fun.
“They are so cute,” he laughed. “Their emotions and reactions are fun to watch and I am really glad that I get to teach them. Because they are so young, you can’t just take a word and say it and expect them to understand. You have to show action. You have to show them what it means.”
Claire’s mother, Jen Restad, said she enjoys the lessons as much as her children do.
“I wish I knew another language fluently,” she said. “I hope that maybe one day she will have some interest in languages. This is definitely the age for her to learn. To learn by playing, what’s better than that?”
Taylor Fusek, 3, can be shy, but mom Laura Fusek said that doesn’t stop her from soaking up everything around her.
“She is such a knowledge sponge,” Fusek said. “I love that she can harness that to learn a language.”
He, now a senior, said he hopes the teaching program continues and even grow at Grand River Academy.
“There is a lot of potential here for the international program and for the children,” he said. “We are all learning from this.”
Thomas said the international students welcome the opportunity to teach more children and can offer lessons to home-schooled children, groups and organizations and give one-time lessons at local schools. For more information on the Mandarin Chinese program at Grand River Academy, email firstname.lastname@example.org.