CUSD Teachers Go to China


From Nov. 25 to Dec. 3, Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services, Julie Olesniewicz, Director of Special Education Amber Verdi, Director of Intervention and English Language Programs Natalie Taylor, and teacher on special assignment Brian D’Ambrosia-Donner, traveled to China in partnership with the American Educational Foundation (AEF). The non-profit works out of Pasadena and partners with school districts to bring Chinese students and teachers to sit in classrooms and observe lessons. Additionally, they send the school district educators over to China to present to their teachers and explain how we teach in the states. AEF approached the CHS administration and asked if they would be interested in participating on the program. The selection process started with the foundation approaching Olesniewicz. She picked three other teachers who would be able to go and would offer different aspects and perspectives to assist their presentations. China wants to change their teaching styles to more closely mirror the techniques of the U.S.
“China is very much trying to change their teaching style,” Olesniewicz said. “The teaching in China has traditionally been to lecture at all grade levels.”
Specifically, the Chinese educational system wants to encourage their students to be in more clubs, sports, and other school activities.
At one point in the trip, the educators presented at a reading conference in Shenzhen. China’s goal for Shenzhen is for it to be the city of reading. In the conference, they talked about reading differentiation, how we teach all levels of reading, our methods of helping someone who is having difficulties reading and learning to read, and how to work with parents to encourage their child to read.
More students are coming into CUSD straight from China, so one of the goals for the team was to see what their learning experience was in China. Part of what the team observed was what schools looked like and how they were set up. They visited a few elementary schools. All were huge and ranging from three to four stories tall and all students were in uniforms.
Another learning experience for the group was when D’Ambrosia-Donner presented in a fifth grade English class in Shenzhen. After the presentation they walked around to help the students, and they recognized an important fact.
“It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, what culture, what political background – kids are kids,” Olesniewicz said. “They are all the same.”
Another part of their journey was when the team had the fortunate chance to present to a board of administrators and later to parents. One of the favorite parts of the journey for the team was simply getting to know and experience the Chinese culture and people Another favorite part being getting to know their three translators. Their translators also acted as their guides, companions, and trip coordinators during the experience. Having the interpreters on hand, made their trip much more productive and efficient.
“I think we’ll always stay in touch; they were very open and honest,” Olesniewicz said. “We could have very honest conversations on how our countries are very different politically, and how they’re the same.”
The team found it very rewarding to get a first hand experience with the Chinese culture. In their first day in Shenzhen the translators took them to a “theme park.” It displayed all of the different cultures and histories of the many cultures throughout China. They also found that it was a hotspot for school field trips and because almost all young students in China take English as their second language, the team found that everyone wanted to practice their English and in return the team practiced some of their new Mandarin skills.
“I think we did a great job meeting our goals,” D’Ambrosia-Donner said. “The educators, politicians, and parents who attended our presentations had a lot of great questions which fueled really rich conversations. Fortunately the 4th grade students spoke enough English for my lesson to be accessible.They successfully completed all the activities I planned and were engaged the entire time.”
The lasting impression of the group was that the Chinese people were good people and had exceeding amounts of honor and respect, in addition to their friendliness.