Mandarin School Relocates to Wilton
By Aline Weiller
April 11, 2011 (WILTON, CT) — Last June, when Weston’s Grace Brennan opened the doors to her home-based Happy Panda Mandarin School, she could not have imagined such explosive growth within a year’s time. Demand for her Chinese language and cultural program — for both children and adults — has skyrocketed so much that Ms. Brennan is relocating to a larger facility at the Wilton Center, 5 River Road, directly across from Starbucks.
The new location’s Grand Opening will take place on Thursday, May 5th from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. All are welcome to join in the excitement, to include a raffle, prizes, childrens’ activities, and details on the 6-week summer camp, which launches July 5th.
A native of China, Ms. Brennan grew up in Shanghai where she was a national fencing champion at age twelve. She moved to the United States in the mid-90s to attend San Mateo College, where she majored in business and studied English as a second language. She later returned to Shanghai and began a career in Real Estate management, then met her American husband, Jason, who worked in Hong Kong. They married and stayed overseas until their 2004 return to the States.
Now a mother of three, Ms. Brennan wanted to bring both her native tongue and China’s culture to her family and beyond. “My children are my inspiration and have fueled my passion to teach Mandarin Chinese and share my cultural traditions.” During her time in Fairfield County, Ms. Brennan has noticed an interest in Mandarin due, in part, to the presence of families with parents or adopted children of Chinese origin. In her effort to reach this niche, she turned her brainchild into a reality and the Happy Panda Mandarin School was born.
Ms. Brennan’s school is unique in that it combines both language and cultural instruction. “Chinese is not yet offered in the Wilton school curriculum, so Happy Panda is thrilled to bring this service to the community,” said Brennan. “Since our 2010 opening, interest in my program has grown tremendously and I wanted to accommodate students on the waiting list.” In addition to Ms. Brennan, Wendy Bai and Jie Sun are also on staff and have taught Chinese in Fairfield County.
Happy Panda’s current program is structured as follows: students ages 5 and up enroll for the 12-week program, attending one lesson per week. One week the focus is on Mandarin fundamentals, while the next lesson is centered around Chinese culture. Cultural activities include cooking, painting with Asian brushes, history lessons, crafts, and field trips. There is also a Chinese New Year’s celebration, to which parents are invited.
Classes are 90 minutes in length and are offered weekdays from 3:45-5:15 p.m., 4:00-5:30 p.m., or 4:30-6:00 p.m. Tuition details are available on the website, www.hpmandarin.com. Discounts are available for programs paid in full and toward a sibling’s tuition. One-hour private instruction is also offered for children and adults.
Happy Panda’s curriculum draws content from the Zhongwen textbook series, which is comprised of academic levels. Level A (Primary) stresses Pinyin and basic Chinese phrases, Level B (Intermediate) includes the instruction of 200 words, while Level C (Advanced) students master 500 words. “Our objective is to enlighten, excite, and educate children and adults through our contemporary, hands-on approach to teaching Mandarin,” said Brennan.
The 6-week summer camp (July 5th – August 12th) offers a varied schedule as well. Campers can attend two weekdays from 9:30 – 11:00, or opt for the extended session — attending Monday through Friday — from 9:00 – 1:30. Extended day students will bring a nut-free lunch. Camp costs can be found online or by contacting Ms. Brennan.
Ms. Brennan’s school has won accolades from many local parents. “My 6-year-old son and his friends attended Happy Panda last summer and absolutely loved it. I enthusiastically and wholeheartedly endorse Grace’s school. My husband and I were truly impressed with the Mandarin program and George’s progress in such a short time. I’d highly recommend it,” endorsed Elizabeth Menke, parent of a former Weston student.
Happy Panda has rolling admission and registration for year-round classes and the summer camp is currently open. For additional information, come to the May 5th Grand Opening, call Grace Brennan at 203.227.8088, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.