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China 2011

Educational, Enlightening and Exciting! Words can't begin to capture the experience twenty-two Union County teachers had this summer. The group was lead by Donna Podgorny, Curriculum Coordinator for World Languages, and Scott Broome, Principal at MRMS. Cheryl Tunno, Media Specialist, recaps her experience as one of the twenty-two teachers this way: From Charlotte Douglas Airport we traveled to the Bund in Shanghai where we visited the Huangpu River and saw the Oriental Pearl TV Tower located on the opposite side of the river in the district known as Pudong.

From Shanghai, we traveled the busy streets of Nanjing Road to the 1000 year old town of Tongli.  This town is characterized by: stone bridges, well preserved ancient architecture, private gardens, temples and houses. The highlight of the visit was walking across the three bridges called Taiping (peace), Jili (luck) and Changqing (celebration) bridges which have become important landmarks and are regarded as sacred architecture by the locals. China is known for its silk, so of course we visited the silk factory to observe a demonstration of silk production followed by a leisurely walk through ancient gardens in Suzhou.

One of the most amazing and awe-inspiring sights in Wuxi, was the Lingshan Great Buddha. The all-bronze Buddha is 88 meters high and weighs 700 tons. Midway to the Buddha you are greeted by the largest bronze hand in China, almost 12 meters tall and identical to the palm of the statue itself.

Two weeks of teaching at the High School Affiliated to Nanjing Normal University; Jiang Campus, proved to be an experience none of us will forget. The High School Affiliated to Nanjing Normal University is nationally and regionally recognized and received titles and awards such as National Model High School, Basic Education Reform Experiment School (Ministry of Education), Top Ten Schools of Basic Education in China, Key Middle School of Jiangsu, Model School of Jiangsu, and Top Four Schools of Jiangsu Province. The school is also a member of International School Connection. The students were wonderful. They showed a deep respect for learning and teachers, were absolutely enthralled with the United States and were anxious to perform for us. They provided a variety of activities for us to enjoy: plays, dances, a bazaar, and a bonfire talent show.

Twelve teachers were fortunate enough to travel on to Beijing where we visited the Temple of Heaven, the Great Wall, the Summer Palace, Tian'an'men Square, the Forbidden City, and Houtong where we rode a rickshaw through the narrow alleys and visited a local family. Our next stop was the Bejing Olympic Village (Bird's Nest Stadium) and 798 Modern Art Zone. For those of us that watched the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, this was neat to see. Our last day consisted of free time to experience Beijng culture and shopping.

Our deepest thanks goes to Mrs. Donna Podgorny and Ms. Marie Brickman for their careful planning and preparation. China 2011 --- a life-changing experience!

History of our Partnership with China
The opportunity to create a partnership with a school in China resulted from Union County Public School’s membership in the Asia Society Confucius Classrooms Network. The partnership was initially formed with High School Affiliated to Nanjing Normal University in the summer of 2010 by Bill Cook, Principal at MRHS, Marie Brickman, AP at MRHS, Donna Podgorny, Curriculum Coordinator for World Languages and Donna Cook, Principal at Rea View Elementary. These individuals traveled to China to establish this long term partnership and to connect our schools and communities.

The partnership was established and continues to be one with Marvin Ridge High School; however, MRHS opened up opportunities for staff at other Union County Public Schools to be included: Marvin Ridge Middle School, Weddington High School, Sun Valley High School, Cuthbertson High School, Parkwood High School and Walter Bickett Elementary School.

The partnership established by Marvin Ridge High School continues to grow. The principal of the High School Affiliated to Nanjing Normal University, Principal Li, and his delegation will travel to our school and district sometime this year. The Marvin Ridge High School community looks forward to hosting this visit and in time hopes to extend this opportunity and send student groups to and from China.

Quotes from teachers who experienced the wonder of China:
“I also think it is so important to keep reminding students of other cultures and keep working to open the world to them in as many ways as possible. Working to incorporate travels and what I've learned on travels is something I will continue to do to try and prove to students that, while we can celebrate the differences, we should remember the similarities as well, especially in our social interactions and decisions that affect the lives of other people.” Shawna Bryce, English Teacher

“The most important part of this experience for me has been able to better know and hopefully understand China the country, the people, the culture, perspectives, and experiences. I have been able to break down common imagery and stereotypes that Americans tend to share about China, specifically their way of life. I talked with people both young and old, women and men, professionals and students, and have learned that China and America are more similar than different. I treasure the relationships I have built there with the students, staff (both from UCPS and Jiangning) and hope they continue into the future. Most importantly, I can take my experiences and share them with my students at MRHS to help them understand China and its people better, and make them more globally aware citizens.” Matthew Gain, Social Studies Teacher

Beth Walker, Science teacher shared that she learned, “That children all over the world are very similar, even if they do speak different languages. They all need smiles and affection to encourage them to learn.”

Chris Riddle, English teacher commented, “The Chinese are a giving people, and I am humbled by their generosity. I loved the people!”

Tammy Nelson, English teacher explained that, “Once again, I am reaffirmed that people are basically the same the world over. Once we meet face to face, it is easy to lay our prejudices aside and see the people and not the issues and the politics.”

Leah Ross, CTE teacher commented that the highlight of the trip for her was “the opportunity to experience teaching in another culture.”

English teacher, Gail Haynes said she will long remember, “the time spent with the students, which negated many stereotypes, and the generosity of spirit and kindness that I felt from the Chinese people.”

Teresa Broome, Curriculum Consultant states that the teachers on the trip, the tour guides, the teaching staff in the school, and the awesome students made this trip so wonderful. The teachers on the trip bonded together instantly in a foreign culture. The tour guides gave significant advice, information, and help. Principal Li was welcoming and so generous. The Chinese teachers talked, listened, and teamed with us with to make lasting relationships. The students touched our hearts. I will be forever changed because of this trip!”

Video created by Chris Roncone, Art Specialist, Sun Valley HS

Written by: Cheryl Tunno
Posted: Sep 21, 2011 by Cheryl Tunno

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