MACON, Ga. (AP) — Liu Ting, one of 25 instructors who will teach Mandarin Chinese to Bibb County public school students this year, marveled at Macon's architecture, met new friends and took a trip to Wal-Mart.
Along with buying bedding, food and other basics, Liu, 25, also had a brand-new experience on her first day in Macon: using a self-checkout machine for the first time.
"I never tried it," she said. "It's interesting. We (found) something new here."
The teachers will provide Mandarin Chinese instruction three times a week, 20 minutes at a time, to students in pre-K through the third grade this year. The system plans to roll out Mandarin Chinese instruction to all Bibb students by the 2015-16 school year.
Bibb County is working through Kennesaw State University's Confucius Institute to get the teachers in Bibb's classrooms. In all, 38 teachers are working in Georgia public schools through Kennesaw's program this year. In addition to the 25 in Bibb County, the other 13 teachers work in Hall and Cobb counties.
Ken Jin, director of the Confucius Institute at Kennesaw State University, said the Chinese teachers in Macon have been greeted with hospitality, and people they met were friendly and curious.
"They have (had) a wonderful experience so far," Jin said.
Bibb's program has the potential to be a model across the nation and world, given the size of its program and its reach to its youngest students, he said.
"This is the best time for anyone to learn a language — it doesn't matter if it's Spanish or Chinese — to be proficient," he said. "It's very, very exciting."
Bibb County's students will learn numbers, colors, body parts and other vocabulary in lessons that incorporate cultural aspects such as music and the arts, Jin said.
The teachers, who are students at Yangzhou University learning to teach Chinese as a second language, also have classroom experience in China.
Liu said she hopes the relationship with her students will be mutually beneficial: She will get the chance to apply her skills in the classroom while students have the opportunity to learn a new language.
She also looks forward to learning more about American culture, making new friends and traveling.
"I expect a very exciting and professional school year," she said.