A delegation from School District 8 is going to China this summer. The hard work of International Program Administrator Sandy Prentice resulted in an invitation for a delegation to visit China by Professor Li of the Tianjin Technology University.
The trip takes place from July 17 to 28. While away, the delegation will be exposed to traditional and current Chinese culture which will include a trip to the Great Wall of China and Ancient Culture Street. Participants will be introduced to Chinese calligraphy, history through fable, and cuisine. Delegates will be in dorm accommodations at the university.
The group of 19 is made up of six CUPE employees (janitors, secretaries, bus drivers, and educational assistants), five teachers, four principals, two trustees, and two senior management.
“The tie-in is all about relationship building because in order for someone to send their children to us, they have to trust us,” said Prentice.
“Last year in our program we had 125 international students from 11 different countries. Twenty of our students were from China.”
Prentice says another huge component of the program is the desire to move all staff in the district along the Intercultural Continuum so that people move from monocultural to multicultural mindsets.
“This is evident in their interactions with international students. Research is really clear on this, where each of us thinks we are inter culturally, does not match where we show we are when faced with an intercultural challenge. By creating relationships with our Chinese colleagues we build the trust, caring, and understanding necessary to really support international students in our schools.”
Last summer SD 8 sent seven of their Canadian high school students to China for a summer travel tour and they came back very different students.
“They are so interested in helping out with the international students when prior to this, they were shy of it and didn’t know how to interact.”
The District has noticed several benefits.
“Our Chinese students now have Canadian friends they can complete their high school studies with and feel far more comfortable interacting in a social way with their Canadian classmates. The Canadian students are developing a deeper sense of appreciation for what they have and what their Chinese classmates are experiencing.”
During a business trip to Vancouver three years ago an agent working in the Vancouver area connected Prentice with Professor Li.
Since meeting during her recruitments trips to China, he has asked for two to three teachers to visit Tianjin for two weeks in the summer to teach Chinese teachers how to teach English.
Teachers Heather Robertson and Shannon Lanaway traveled to Tianjin and worked with teachers on how to teach English.
The following year teachers Lanaway, Kerri MacDonald, and Steve Anderson ventured to Tianjin, and again this summer two teachers will be traveling to Tianjin under the leadership of Shannon Lanaway.
Li told Prentice that his university wants to change their title and designation from a technology school to an open university meaning it’s international. He asked for help by sending a delegation of people from SD 8 to show the Chinese government that his university has international relations with Nelson, Canada.
Delegates will personally bear the costs of the trip not covered by the university which will be $500 per person plus a Chinese visa ($105).
After discussions with Superintendent Jeff Jones, it was decided that he would give up his spot so that someone else could travel to China. To ensure that everyone who wanted to travel to China had the chance to do so, a notice was sent out to every employee in the district. Seventy one people were interested in the 18 spots to China.
Names from CUPE, Kootenay Lake Teachers Association, and the B.C. Principals Vice Principals Association were drawn from a hat.