The U.S. is growing in its recognition of the value of multilingualism, and is rapidly expanding educational programs, such as dual language immersion (DLI), to that end (Singleton et al., 2018). However, the historical socio-political, regulatory, and cultural contexts have led to a current climate that may not demonstrate equivalent value of its multilingual teachers (Flores & Rosa, 2015). With a concerning teacher shortage that is exacerbated for teachers of culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds (MacIntyre et al., 2019), it is critical to understand factors that impact the wellbeing and satisfaction of such teachers in the U.S. educational system. In particular, with the complexities of globalization (Schaeffer, 2009) and a growing anti-Asian backlash (Chen et al., 2020), this study is concerned with the possible impact on teachers in programs such as Mandarin DLI, coveted for its language as a resource (M. Heller, 2003), as there is great potential for their workplace experience to be driven by transactional exchanges, rather than the desired transformative interaction in such a commodified climate. Therefore, using a qualitative phenomenological approach, this study focuses on the professional lived experiences of Mandarin language teachers within the ecological system (Bronfenbrenner, 1977) of their uniquely dual language immersion environment. Using the lenses of humanization (Freire, 1970; Todres et al., 2009) and cultural sustainment (Paris, 2012; Paris & Alim, 2017), this study examines the connection between such interactions and the resulting value expressed by the teachers. Thirteen Mandarin dual language immersion teachers participated in semi- structured interviews that contributed to rich and thick descriptive findings. The teachers’ insight led to implications regarding the systemic features in schools that can create culturally sustaining lifeways, develop humanizing leadership, and cultivate school communities as places of love that can collectively support the wellbeing and retention of diverse teachers.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Education, Bilingual; Mandarin dialects—Study and teaching; Language teachers—United States

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Kevin Wong