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Chinese teacher has culture shock at Alabama school

ELBERTA (AP) — A small school in south Baldwin County has become the only one in Alabama and the first Catholic elementary school in the country to be chosen for a guest teacher program designed to teach students Chinese.

The program at St. Benedict Catholic School brings in a guest Chinese teacher and is co-sponsored by the College Board and Hanban, China's Office of Chinese Language Council International.

St. Benedict, which has 158 students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade, decided to add Chinese to its foreign language curriculum, augmenting a Spanish program that launched a few years ago.

"We felt like children who have Chinese language are going to be able to write their own ticket when they get to college," Principal Kendall McKee said.

McKee said China's emerging economy and growing global influence led St. Benedict's officials to conclude that a Chinese language program would benefit students.

Wang Zhenghai, a Chinese teacher accustomed to a fast-paced lifestyle in Shanghai, said living in tiny Elberta has been somewhat disorienting.

Zhenghai, 35, also taught in Laos before coming to St. Benedict in August.

"When I come here, I have the culture shock," he said. "Maybe for the students, they have culture shock, too."

He has taught basic lessons on colors and numbers so far, as well as simple phrases.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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