Sometimes you just have to turn to someone who speaks the language when you’re trying to explain something to the home folks.
I’m not talking about English. I’m talking about Southern.
Fortunately for MTSU, Mike Novak speaks fluent Southern, and he’s using it to help Southern schools understand China.
MTSU’s Confucius Institute has hired Novak to help promote Chinese language and culture in area K-12 schools.
Novak, most recently principal of Liberty Elementary School in Shelbyville, became the institute’s new assistant director July 1.
“I am very excited to be part of the team at the Confucius Institute,” said Novak. “I look forward to expanding educational opportunities for Tennessee and China.
“I look forward to the new chances to learn. In my life, I’ve always enjoyed learning. So to me this is just a continuation on that path of learning while strengthening the bridge to two cultures.”
Novak has worked in the Bedford County school system for the past 11 years, including three years as an art teacher at Eakin Primary School, two years as the part-time assistant principal at Eakin and part-time intervention teacher at Thomas Intermediate School, one year as full-time assistant principal at Eakin and five years as Liberty’s principal.
In fact, Thomas School, which is now a magnet school and was named a National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education in 2013, already has a Chinese language teacher, Dongmei Wang, in place and a Chinese Club for students.
Novak also was one of 10 people chosen from across the country to serve on the National Assessment of Educational Progress principals’ panel.
The veteran educator comes to the new position with a wealth of contacts from his career and from his experience on the Common Core Leadership Council for the Tennessee Department of Education.
“I think the biggest help there (communicating with area educators) will be that human element,” Novak said. “I’m going in to talk to people that I know. They know that I’ve been a principal in the trenches for years.”
Dr. Guanping Zheng, director of the Confucius Institute and a professor in the MTSU Department of Electronic Media Communication, said Novak is a welcome addition to the team.
“This shows the university’s continuing commitment to broaden the institute’s outreach to the Middle Tennessee area,” said Zheng.
The Confucius Institute at MTSU works to enhance understanding of Chinese language and culture and to help facilitate opportunities for exchange and collaboration between China and communities in Tennessee.