CSU, Chico News

Korean Teachers Celebrate 25th Year Visiting Their ‘Chico Family’

Date: 01-23-2013

Joe Wills
Public Affairs

A successful educational partnership between California State University, Chico and a province in Korea hit a milestone this month with the 25th year of what is affectionately called the “Chico Family” program.

Teachers from the Chungcheongbuk Province in Korea come to CSU, Chico for four weeks to improve their English skills, learn teaching methodologies and experience American culture.

“We have a one-year agreement with the province that has been renewed each year, and each year more teachers from the province express the desire to come to Chico for our program,” said CSU, Chico Professor Charles Zartman, program director. “This program is very popular and highly respected in the Chungcheongbuk Province.”

In its third year, 1990, the program was named the outstanding professional development program in education for all of the Republic of Korea.

In 2010, Konkuk University, which has a campus in the Chungcheongbuk Province, began a similar English training program at CSU, Chico. School officials became aware of the popularity of the teacher program in the province and wanted to replicate it for their university students.

When the 36 Korean teachers currently at CSU, Chico leave campus on Feb. 1, 28 Konkuk University students will arrive for their one-month program, Zartman said.

This January, the number of teachers and university students visiting CSU, Chico via these two programs reached 1,000, Zartman said. The professional development program for teachers has become so successful that, in addition to English teachers and elementary school teachers charged with teaching English, it now attracts many secondary school teachers who teach subjects other than English, he said.

The program initially was held in the summer, but was moved two years ago to January to accommodate the extended break between academic years in Korea. The Korean academic calendar runs from mid-March through the end of December.

The teachers and students stay with local Chico residents, a number of whom host the Korean visitors year after year. One of the features that separates CSU, Chico’s English program from many others, Zartman said, is the level of involvement from the host families. “The teachers in the first year of the program called it the ‘Chico Family’ program rather than the initial name, Korean English Teacher Summer Institute, because the teachers felt the staff treated them as family,” he said.

The program includes morning classroom sessions to introduce language methodology, increase cultural understanding and refine their English along with a variety of afternoon activities and outings. A typical day for the visitors starts with classes in the morning; English tutoring, school visits or sightseeing in the afternoon; and outings in the evening.

This month, the teachers have gone bowling and roller-skating, attended an organ concert, prepared a meal at the Torres Shelter, visited local schools two afternoons each week and taken sightseeing trips throughout Northern California. Hosting family members participate in a number of the activities, Zartman said.

Zartman said there are fliers touting English language programs “on every street corner” in Korea, but the special attention the Korean visitors receive in Chico sets the program apart from others. He said a recent study he read estimated that 85 percent of international students who come to the United States never have a meal in an American home.

To commemorate the anniversary visit, a resolution from the City of Chico was presented to the visitors on Jan. 7, their first full day in Chico. The resolution stated the program “has served to bring friendship, goodwill and mutual understanding between the people of Chico and those visiting here from the Chungcheongbuk Province.”

In 2007, Zartman, some colleagues and several Chico host families were invited to Korea as guests of the governor of Chungcheongbuk Province. Zartman said they were “treated royally” as Korean officials expressed their gratitude for the high quality and caring nature of the Chico program. “In Korea, as in any country, professional matters are conducted based on relationships being established,” Zartman said. “I am pleased to say we have been able to build a very strong and enduring relationship with our Korean friends from the Chungcheongbuk Province. As the teachers in the first group expressed, this program has become what the name suggests, a family.”

The program started in 1988 when Korean officials were looking to find a quality English program and were directed to the CSU, Chico Center for Bilingual/Multicultural Studies by a bilingual professional working at the California Department of Education in Sacramento. Professor Jesús Cortez, then director of the center, and Zartman initiated the program with Zartman serving as curriculum director for the first nine years. Zartman then became program director, and he also now heads the Center for Bilingual/Multicultural Studies. He received the University’s Outstanding Faculty Service Award in 2010-2011.