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Mandarin immersion Ambassador Teacher celebrates winning Participate Learning’s Teacher of the Year award
Global Education

Meet Participate Learning’s Teachers of the Year: Jinjing Chen

The 2024 Participate Learning Teacher of the Year awards recognize three teachers in the Participate Learning Network who have shown an exceptional commitment to their students and school community and have exemplified Participate Learning’s mission of uniting our world through global learning.

This year, each awardee demonstrated a commitment to teaching global perspectives in their classroom and their dedication to the Participate Learning mission by sharing examples of:

  • Connections: Connections with students, colleagues at school, their community, fellow members of the Participate Learning Network, and beyond.
  • Cultural Experiences: Cultural experiences they provide for students, their school, and community by sharing their own culture, recognizing all of the cultures represented in their classroom, and teaching about cultures from around the world. 
  • Leadership: Leadership roles they serve in on their grade level or team, within their school, in the Participate Learning Network, and in the community.
  • Learning: Professional development opportunities that advance their own learning, as well as the creative and innovative global and/or language learning experiences that they provide for their students.

These global educators have poured time, energy, and so much thoughtfulness into sharing how they embrace global and language learning in their classrooms, schools, and beyond. It is our honor to introduce our second Teacher of the Year winner, Jinjing Chen!

Bringing global teaching experiences to the U.S.

Jinjing Chen is a third-grade Mandarin dual language immersion teacher at Marvin Elementary School in Union County Public Schools in North Carolina. She is a third-term Ambassador Teacher, or international educator, originally from China.

Ms. Chen has experience teaching in Australia and China, and she has a master’s degree in education management and motivational teaching. She is truly an exceptional educator who brings her global perspectives into the classroom each day, gained from teaching abroad

Making connections for students, parents, and the community

Ms. Chen helps her students build relationships with each other, and she strives to understand each student on a personal level. She has created a cohesive classroom environment by encouraging respectful dialogue and mutual respect, and developing skills like empathy, valuing differences, and communication.

Her students established a class contract this year in which they agreed on classroom rules and procedures together. They also have a weekly class meeting during which they set new goals and reflect on their progress.

Ms. Chen builds connections for her students outside her classroom and encourages interaction across grade levels and subject areas. Her students have led science and math activities with other classes and are paired up with reading buddies from other Mandarin dual language classes to practice their reading and writing skills.

Ms. Chen established a “Mandarin Word of the Week” activity for the entire school, where students are taught a Mandarin Chinese word during morning announcements and encouraged to incorporate that word into their vocabulary throughout the week.

With Ms. Chen’s help, students and their families had the opportunity to connect to Chinese culture outside of school. She organized an outing to a Chinese restaurant, where everyone enjoyed a traditional hot pot meal, sang karaoke, and students practiced their language skills. 

Feedback from the parent of a student in her class speaks to Ms. Chen’s dedication to her students:

“She [Ms. Chen] is an amazing educator, and her heart and love for the kids is so beautiful. She arranged for us all to go to an authentic Chinese restaurant on a Sunday afternoon. It was her day off, and she spent most of it making a beautiful and fun afternoon for her students because she loves them so much! I will never forget today!”

Building cultural knowledge through immersive experiences

A true international educator, Ms. Chen has provided many amazing cultural experiences throughout the year for her students. Students have been immersed in Chinese culture and traditions through hands-on learning. 

They learned about the traditions and historical legends of the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival and the significance of mooncakes. Students also celebrated Chinese New Year with a parade, along with activities like calligraphy, a chopsticks game, and learning Chinese songs and dances. 

Students have done virtual exchanges throughout the year with students in China. They also had an opportunity to virtually meet with Ms. Chen’s family to show them what a traditional New Year’s Eve dinner looks like. This was a wonderful opportunity to further immerse her students in Chinese culture and to also maintain her connection to her community back home while teaching abroad.

Ms. Chen invited a parent who is a graduate student specializing in the traditional Chinese musical instrument guzheng to perform for the class. 

Additionally, throughout the year Ms. Chen’s class has celebrated and learned about different holidays, such as Christmas, Hanukkah, Thanksgiving, and others. Through these celebrations students have learned about different cultural traditions in many parts of the world.

Demonstrating leadership through continuous learning

Ms. Chen serves as a leader in many different capacities, using her knowledge and skills to mentor others, provide instructional support, and continuously improve the Mandarin Dual Language Programs across her district.

She serves as her school’s Mandarin team chair, and she helped school leadership apply for the Distinguished K-12 Chinese Program offered by the Chinese Language Teachers Association, U.S.A. Their school was one of two in North Carolina to win this prestigious award, and one of only 16 schools in the U.S.

Ms. Chen also assisted her school principal in preparing for a visit from the U.S. Department of State, during which representatives observed dual language immersion and cultural exchange in action. They visited Ms. Chen’s classroom and saw her bright and colorful cultural displays, as well as multisensory strategies she uses to engage students.

Additionally, Ms. Chen uses her leadership skills to mentor others and share instructional strategies. She has shared her expertise as a conference speaker on topics like global cross-cultural communication and second language acquisition.

Her students enjoy continuous global learning opportunities, incorporating global issues into lessons and activities. During morning meetings and cross-curricular lessons, students discuss topics like the importance of recycling and energy conservation. Students are led through the inquiry cycle so they can build global leadership skills, improving the world around them.

Ms. Chen is an outstanding dual language educator who is deeply committed to her students, colleagues, and uniting our world through global learning and cultural exchange. When district leaders and Participate Learning staff came to her school to surprise her with the Teacher of the Year award, there were many happy tears as Ms. Chen got to celebrate with her students and other teachers. We are honored to recognize her with this prestigious award so she can continue positively impacting the world!

We would like to thank all our Ambassador Teachers, U.S. partner teachers, and school partners who submitted interest forms, nominations, and applications for this year’s awards. Thank you for educating the next generation of thoughtful and engaged citizens who will be ready to succeed and make a positive impact.

If you’d like to learn more about teaching in the U.S. with Participate Learning, see our requirements and application process.

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