KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Knox County Schools has found a way to teach specialized courses to more high school students, using one teacher for multiple schools. All of it is done without busting the budget.
The effort is possible with technology and collaborating with colleges and business leaders.
Mandarin Chinese is being taught to high school students at Hardin Valley Academy and Bearden High School at the same time by the same teacher, thanks to distance learning technology.
Dr. Frank Chen is one of just a few licensed, certified Chinese instructors. "This is a good way to extend the program in any subject, especially if you have a hard time getting teachers or you want to deliver to different areas of the state," he said. "I think this is a good approach."
Teaching the language to students in two schools at once provides more bang for the buck.
Mandarin Chinese is the language of commerce in mainland China, Taiwan and Singapore, opening a lot of doors for these students in the global marketplace.
Freshman Kane Smith, 14, said the Mandarin Chinese course offering played a role in his parents' decision to relocate the family to the Hardin Valley school district.
Smith said there are many reasons he wanted to learn the language. "It's one of those things, it's different so people would obviously be impressed with it. It looks good going on a college application, and considering the fact that a billion people in the world are Chinese, if you want to go into the business aspect of things, it's good to learn. There is so much business in China," he explained.
Just across the hall from Dr. Chen, high definition cameras and computers bring students from four high schools together in Vivian West's Emerging Trends in Technology Class.
Katie Hodge, 19, is a Hardin Valley senior and peer tutor in West's class. "They can see us and we can see them," she said. "It's like a four-shot screen."
West teaches Hardin Valley, Farragut, Karns and Bearden High School students about new technology, and practical uses for school, career and life.
"The class itself was an emerging trend in technology, the distance learning experience," said West. "What I found is that as you look at what's emerging out there in technology, students today are not only expected to know what those technologies are, but they're also expected to be able to interact with the technology."
The students at all four schools use their voices in class and chat live with the teacher and each other using a collaborative computer program.
"You don't just raise your hand because the teacher doesn't always see it," said Hodge. "But if they don't speak up, they can just go on the chat. So it's pretty easy communication because there's several ways of communication."
"I guess the biggest way I measure success was the number of students that said, I have used something you've taught me in another class," West said.
It's just another way of paving a brighter future for East Tennessee students. The Mandarin Chinese course is made possible by a grant from Oak Ridge National Lab through the Great Schools Partnership.
The Emerging Trends in Technologies course was sponsored by a grant in collaboration with Pellissippi State Community College. Students earned college credit while taking the course in high school.
Funding is being sought to continue and expand both programs.
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