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March 5, 2024

The CAC STARTALK group in its entirety. Photo by Bonnie Wang.

I recently interviewed Professor Lini Ge Polin about the Carolina Asia Center (CAC) STARTALK, a program she and her colleagues here in DAMES, not to mention the local community, have created for teachers of Chinese from across the country! Professor Polin is the program director, and DAMES colleagues Luoyi Cai and Raymond Dokupil are respectively the lead instructor and program assistant.

Read on to learn more about CAC STARTALK!

First, can you tell me more about CAC STARTALK? What is it exactly?

The 2022-2024 Carolina Asia Center STARTALK Chinese Teacher Program aims to train secondary school Chinese language teachers (or those with equivalent teaching experience) to integrate community resources in curriculum design and pedagogical practice to support the development of students’ intercultural communicative competence. Fourteen Chinese language teachers with at least one year of teaching experience at the secondary level in the U.S. were selected to join the program.

You can read more about those teachers here!

Chia-Pei Chen and Jianglin Shi show off their Chinese Yo-yo skills. Photo by Bonnie Wang.


I understand a summer camp was part of the teaching experience. Was this in person or remote? And what was it like? When I think of a summer camp, I usually think of being outdoors and jumping in a lake!

It was both! We used a hybrid design. There was a two-week online theoretical and technical training, followed by two-week on-site teaching planning and practicum with peer teaching and micro-teaching. Our teachers practiced and designed new student-centered tasks, all of which were constructed to help students use Chinese in fun, familiar, culturally immersive ways.

It was an engaging and fun learning experience filled with joy and laughter for the teacher participants and volunteer students! We didn’t jump in any lakes, but we had several adventures!

Students go on a scavenger hunt at Li Ming Global Market. Photo by Bonnie Wang.
Students practice talking about art in Chinese at Ackland Art Museum. Photo by Bonnie Wang.


This looks like so much fun! As far as summer camps go, 10/10 in my book. What did your participants think of the program?

Our STARTALK site visitor Joanie Micka, who is the STARTALK Program Manager, visited our summer camp on July 11-12 and spoke to several of our teachers. At the end of her visit, she shared this feedback with me:

Merits based on Joanie’s observations:

  • Because we did a good job with pre-selection of participants, Joanie felt that we have great teacher participants dedicated to the training.
  • The team works so well together with individual strengths in different areas and specific tasks for everyone. The team building for the staff can also model to the participants how they may collaborate with their colleagues.
  • The guest speakers were incredible (“love the caliber”).
  • Joanie loves the authentic materials, decorations, and cultural artifacts in our classroom.

Feedback from the teacher participants who volunteered to talk to Joanie:

  • Well-organized and detail-oriented.
  • Effective content-specific training.
  • Very professional staff with great expertise.
  • The staff are all approachable. The teacher participants feel comfortable talking to us.
  • Teacher participants know what to expect. They like the resources shared by our staff and the reminders for tasks and deadlines.
  • One teacher said that she had participated in several STARTALK teacher programs and our program is definitely the best.

What an incredible program! For more photos and videos of the CAC STARTALK participants and their adventures, please visit this link.

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