Images appeared on a large screen and voices crackled over a video conferencing system with a simple greeting, “Hello.” Soon, a series of conversations were taking place in both Mandarin Chinese and English. Staff members at a middle school in China recently took part in an interactive, international video conference with Hilltop High students, teachers and administrators. It was the first of what is planned to be weekly presentations and lessons between the sister schools, beginning next fall.
“This is a 21st Century display of international friendship and cooperation to achieve common educational goals,” Sweetwater Board President Jim Cartmill said. “As educators, whether in China or the United States, we share a deep commitment to the preparation of our young people. International links such as these are an important step in ensuring our students are competitive in the global marketplace.”
The video conferencing involved Hilltop’s Chinese (Mandarin) class, which is part of the school’s Foreign Language and Global Studies (FLAGS) Program. Its video conference partner was the Middle School Attached to Northeast Normal University in China.
Hilltop Principal Jerry Rindone said the plan is eventually to video conference on a week-ly basis between Chinese students who are studying English and Hilltop students who are studying Mandarin. In February, Rindone welcomed six faculty members from the High School Attached to Northeast Normal University.
The video conferencing is an outgrowth of a teacher exchange program that brings one teacher from the Chinese middle school to Hilltop annually to teach Chinese language and culture classes.
“We are great partners and international friends,” Rindone told his counterpart at the Chinese middle school.
Rindone also shared the news of Hilltop’s recent honor in being selected as a California Distinguished School. The Chinese principal and staff members greeted the Hilltop contingent and talked about the exciting possibilities in the future.
A dozen Hilltop students were on hand for the video conference. However, because it was a national testing day in China, there were no Chinese students available to take part in the exchange, which occurred at 7 a.m. their time and 4 p.m. Hilltop time.
The Sweetwater side of the conference was set up with the assistance of its Information Technology department. The ties with China have been a great benefit to his campus, Rindone said. The Hilltop Mandarin class alone has grown from a handful of students to 32 in the most recent semester. And the Boys Basketball team plans to tour China in 2006.