History of Shu Ren

In the late 1990s, Portland Public Schools decided to add another language immersion program. The district already had two immersion programs, in Japanese and Spanish. Due to Oregon's position on the Pacific Rim and China's growing political and economic power (and at the urging of a school board member of Chinese heritage) the district chose Mandarin as the focus of its third immersion program.

The curriculum was modeled after the Spanish and Japanese programs, with students in K-5 spending half a day of instruction in  English, and a half day in Mandarin. Woodstock School, in southeast Portland, was chosen to host the program since the school had declining neighborhood enrollment and available space. Woodstock’s program became the nation's first public school Mandarin immersion program to teach the simplified form of Chinese writing.

Cheryl Johnson, a veteran PPS educator and former Woodstock teacher who had been principal at Skyline Elementary School, became Woodstock's new principal for the 1998-1999 school term.  Cheryl asked Sherrie Love to serve as a part-time program coordinator and together they hired Shen Yin for the critical position as the program's first instructor.  The first class – a kindergarten/first-grade blend – started in September 1998 with 24 students. Enrollment doubled in 1999 when 24 new kindergartners entered the program and by 2000 the program was at approximately 73 students. Woodstock immersion parents began to organize in 2000 and formed the nonprofit organization "Shu Ren of Portland" to support the Mandarin program through networking, advocacy, volunteerism and fund-raising.

Hosford Middle School in southeast Portland was designated as the school for continuing immersion students in the 6th-8th grades, with the program growing to Cleveland High School. Middle school students receive about two hours of Mandarin instruction daily, including an hour of language instruction and an hour of social studies taught in Mandarin. The high school program at Cleveland High was launched in 2008. In 2009-2010 school year there were 364 students across the three schools.

Woodstock has benefited from a sister-school relationship with the Suzhou Experimental School in Suzhou, China. For the past three years, Woodstock has hosted a Suzhou exchange teacher through the U.S.-China Relations Committee. These exchange teachers are an invaluable resource to our students, staff and greater school community since they teach all Woodstock students about Chinese language and culture.  This program is an outstanding example of the possibilities that can be realized through the innovation, commitment, and hard work of teachers, parents and administrators.

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