Guo Ruijie, 24, a native of Hubei, China, had never been to the United States before.

Now after teaching English in China, she has the chance to teach her native language and culture to American students.

Guo is one of 11 teachers from China who came to the U.S. for one year to participate in WKU's Confucius Institute and teach at area schools.

"I was longing to get a job like this," she said. "I got the news that WKU was cooperating with my university to build up a Confucius Institute. I was very much interested, and I took the required exams and interviews. Fortunately, I got the opportunity."

Guo is currently working at Parker-Bennett-Curry Elementary School in Bowling Green.

WKU's program is the first in Kentucky, President Gary Ransdell said last week.

WKU's Confucius Institute is funded by the Chinese government and is a collaboration between Chinese Language Council International (HanBan) and China's Sichuan International Studies University (SISU), according to information provided by Cheryl Kirby-Stokes, educational outreach coordinator for the institute.

It serves to promote Chinese language and cultural exchange throughout Kentucky schools and communities, according to the information.

The partnership was formed in January in Beijing, Kirby-Stokes said.

At that point, WKU already offered the Chinese Flagship program, which began in 2009 and is one of nine in the country. Students study the Chinese language each semester in college and then complete a Capstone internship in China through Nanjing University in their chosen discipline, said Chinese Flagship coordinator Melinda Farmer.

Since WKU was already involved with the Flagship program, it made sense to extend its reach to the Confucius Institute, Farmer said.

Kirby-Stokes said the classes, which are currently in schools in Warren, Barren and Logan counties, are total immersion; no English is spoken in the classrooms.

At the elementary and middle school level, teachers use flash cards, games and songs to teach students. At the high school level, students use workbooks, learn the written language and have dialogue exercises, Kirby-Stokes said.

"Feedback has been very positive," Kirby-Stokes said. "Word is spreading about these great diverse teachers. It's been going very smoothly - we're very happy."

For more information on the Confucius Institute contact Cheryl Kirby-Stokes or visit http://www.wku.edu/ci/