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The City Journals

Ridgecrest Elementary Celebrates Chinese New Year

Apr 07, 2016 11:33AM ● By Kelly Cannon

By Kelly Cannon | [email protected]

Cottonwood -  Holladay - Children at Ridgecrest Elementary rang in the Chinese New Year during a special assembly on Feb. 22. Ridgecrest has been a Chinese dual language immersion school for the past five years and wanted the students to have the opportunity to show off their acquired language skills to their parents. 

The program consisted of the different classes singing songs, giving speeches and doing martial arts moves, all in Chinese. The songs ranged from simple songs for the younger grades to more complex songs about the New Year for the upper grades. Many of the children dressed up in traditional Chinese outfits. 

“I thought it was wonderful,” said Julie Winfree, principal of Ridgecrest Elementary. “It really showed the different styles of teaching of each of the teachers. The kids really learned the language and the songs.” 

Winfree said the assembly was sponsored by the Confucius Program at the University of Utah and by the Chinese Society of Utah. 

With the program in its fifth year, Winfree described the dual language immersion program as being wonderful and effective.

“We retain the same kids each year and they’re really getting solid in their language skills,” Winfree said. “They sound like native Chinese speakers. It’s really exciting to see them interact with each other in Chinese.”

The dual language immersion program is a state-funded program where students learn a target language by being fully immersed in the language for half of the day. Only the target language is spoken during that time. Halfway through the day, classes switch. Students studying the language in the first half of the day then switch over to English and vice versa. Languages taught in different schools include Chinese, Spanish, French and Portuguese. 

In grades one through three, the target language is used to teach math, social studies, science and Chinese literature. In the English classes, reading and writing are taught and the things learned in the Chinese classes are reinforced. The program changes as the students get older. 

The program is funded and established all the way through high school. When students reach ninth grade, they can take the language AP exam. After that, the students can take college-level courses in that language. By the time they graduate from high school, they will be two college credits short of a minor in the language. 

Li Ping Zheng is the third-grade Chinese language teacher at Ridgecrest. She has taught there for the past three years and is the Chinese language teacher leader. 

“We’re the best,” Zheng said of her school and their Chinese language program. “We have the best principal and a lot of support from the community.”

Zheng said one of the advantages Ridgecrest has is the number of teachers who have stayed at the school throughout the years, providing consistency in the program. 

“We have several meetings with vertical planning,” Zheng said. “We’re always talking about how we can improve the program.”

To learn more about the dual language immersion program in Utah, visit