The trip is sponsored by the Confucius Institute Headquarters, part of the Chinese Ministry of Education. Their mission is "... to promote the culture and education exchange between China and other countries, and strengthen the work of teaching Chinese as a foreign language and aid foreign in education."
On the week-long trip are Cheryl Harris, assistant superintendent, Janice Womble, supervisor of secondary instruction, Robert Frazier, assistant principal at Cascade Middle School, and Tim Harwell, principal at TMS.
The Office of Chinese Language Council International (Hanban), sponsors 357 posts around the world, and will fully fund the salary and living expenses of a teacher for the next school year.
The position will be based at Thomas Magnet School, but the instructor will visit all of the county schools throughout the year.
"What a great opportunity for students in Bedford County," said Harwell. "As educators, it is our duty to prepare our children for the world they are living in and the world they will enter as adults.
"We are now living in a global economy and whatever we can do to prepare our children to compete, we must do it."
All the expenses for the trip are being paid by Hanban, through a program which aims to help principals and educational officials in the United States learn more about China and encourage the growth of Chinese language programs in their schools. Since its launch in 2006, over 3,000 principals and educational officials have been invited through the program to visit China.
"The program helps the American educators get a new profound understanding of China's society and economy as well as Chinese language, culture and education. Their witnessing Chinese people's enthusiasm and China's opening-up and the modernization lays a very solid foundation for their cooperation in education and culture with China in the future," reads the Hanban website.
The group left Nashville Friday, flying to Shanghai and traveling by shuttle to Hangzhou. Today they will visit Hangzhu Normal University. On Monday they will visit Wenyi Jie Elementary School, and Hangzhou No. 14 Middle School on Tuesday.
Wednesday they will travel from Hangzhou to Beijing via high-speed train, and take part in guided cultural tours until their departure on Friday.
Internet access permitting, each of the local instructors will write about the experience this week, and the T-G will provide updates online and in our print editions. When the selected candidate arrives in Shelbyville later this summer, the T-G will follow her introduction to the community and her progress throughout the year.
According to Harris, candidates for the program are among the top teachers in China, and competition for the opportunity to teach in United States is strong.
"Our trip to China will open a door for all Bedford County students to understand and appreciate another culture, a culture that is over 4,000 years old," said Harwell.