Huntington, Ind.—While China busied itself preparing for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, a group of 15 volunteers from Huntington, Ind., participated in a three-week teacher training project approximately 2,000 miles south in Zhuhai City.
“We’re assisting China with its goal to train teachers to improve their teaching of oral English,” explained Dr. Luke Fetters, project coordinator and Huntington University professor.
Nancy Peace reviews a lesson plan with a teacher.
The team, comprised of teacher trainers and native English speakers, worked with 120 Chinese teachers and 140 children from the middle of July to the beginning of August. The first week of the trip, only the teachers were involved, and they were given the theoretical and practical framework for teaching oral English.
For weeks two and three, the teachers were divided into groups for hour-and-a-half, free-flowing conversation sessions to practice their oral English. Also during those weeks, the project team hosted an English camp for 70 elementary and 70 middle school children. The children were taught English, and the native English speakers played games with the students to further develop their language skills. During the camp, the Chinese teachers met with the teacher trainers to review lesson plans and complete additional training.
Susie Burson reviews a lesson plan with a teacher.
Valerie Geer, Huntington University adjunct faculty member, served as the curriculum coordinator and lead middle school teacher trainer. Geer holds a Master of Arts degree from Wheaton College in intercultural studies and Teaching English as a Second Language. In her role on the project team, she facilitated English conversation sessions, presented training materials on how to teach spoken English, taught sample lessons in spoken English to middle school students while teachers observed, and helped groups of teachers craft their own lessons.
“I love using my educational background and training to provide a real skill that will help teachers in China,” she said.
Valerie Geer talks with a teacher about her lesson plan.
Susie Burson, lead primary school teacher trainer and Huntington University professor, gave a presentation to the teachers about brain research and rationale. The research supports the use of Multiple Intelligence Theory and varied learning styles in teaching as a way to increase student engagement and learning of spoken English. She also modeled lessons for the teachers by teaching Chinese students spoken English lessons in addition to evaluating lessons taught by the Chinese primary school teachers.
“It was a joy to see the teachers embracing the ideas we shared and successfully implementing the new strategies into English lessons,” she said.
Adam Drummond reviews a lesson plan with a teacher.
In addition to their work, team members appreciated the experience of staying with Chinese host families.
“Along with my professional responsibilities, I enjoyed many cultural experiences with the host family in whose home I was a guest,” Burson said. “They were very warm and hospitable and made my stay an even more wonderful experience. The Chinese leadership also provided many wonderful cultural experiences for the team in our off hours.”
Charles Chapman, a resident of Huntington, says good-bye to his host family.
This is the second consecutive summer Fetters has led a team to Zhuhai City for teacher training. He estimated that 60 percent of the children who participated in the 2008 English camp were alumni of the 2007 camp.
“We built on a very successful training last year, and this year, we made improvements and experienced even more success,” Fetters said. “There are 2,000 English teachers in Zhuhai City, and at the final banquet, officials indicated their desire to have all 2,000 teachers take this training.”
Nathan Geer has lunch with a group of teachers.
“One of the highlights for me was listening to a Chinese official share how meaningful the English training was to his country’s teachers,” said Nathan Geer, teacher trainer and Huntington University staff member. “He highlighted our professionalism, our heart for the teachers and our commitment to the students.”
Another trip is already in the planning stages for 2009. Because of the success of the previous trainings and the desire to have all teachers trained, Fetters anticipates running two training events simultaneously for a total of 240 teachers.
Nathan (far right) and Valerie (center) Geer enjoy a meal with their host family.
Community partners assisted with the recruiting of team members for the 2008 trip. The United Brethren International Education Program recruited volunteers to assist with the English camp, and Huntington County Community School Corporation contributed two team members. Adam Drummond, assistant principal at Lincoln Elementary School, and Nancy Peace, a first grade teacher at Northwest Elementary School, both participated in the project.
Jill Dougherty, a music teacher from Adams Elementary School in Fort Wayne, Ind., leads English camp students in a musical presentation.
# # #