(T-G Photo by Tracy Simmons)
Professors Guan Ping of the Confucius Institute at Middle Tennessee State University, and Paul Cui, a former English professor at Hangzhou Normal University who served as guide to the delegation from Tennessee, were on hand to thank the board for building a bridge between our culture and theirs.
"I really feel that this is something very meaningful," said Cui, who before joining the Confucius Institute had contact with many American friends. He came to the understanding, he says, "More Chinese people understand about America than American people understand about China."
Chinese students begin learning English in kindergarten. Their education also includes world geographies, political systems and cultures and even the table manners expected in different regions of the world.
"This kind of intercultural exchange can help the two countries come to understand each other."
Rep. Pat Marsh was on hand to add his support. Marsh was part of a delegation of 15 or so representatives who made a similar trip to China via the Confucius Institute.
"It's an eye-opening experience," said Marsh.
"These folks are really promoting their country, they are putting their money where their mouth is -- showing their country off to the world. And they are paying for it."
On the week-long trip were Cheryl Harris, assistant superintendent, Janice Womble, supervisor of secondary instruction, Robert Frazier, assistant principal at Cascade Middle School, and Tim Harwell, principal at Thomas Magnet School. They were part of a delegation of educators that included representatives from Middle Tennessee State University, Vol State Community College, and Knox and Rutherford County Schools.
While there, the educators visited with schools and interacted with students, as well as their peer teachers and administrators, gaining insight into how our educational systems compare.
The trip was sponsored by the Confucius Institute Headquarters, part of the Chinese Ministry of Education.
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. Bedford County will additionally sponsor a small stipend, which Dr. Ray Butrum, superintendent estimates will be between $4,000 and $6,000, to be paid from federal grant funds.
The position will be based at Thomas Magnet School, but through video conferencing and on-site school visits, the resources the Chinese teacher brings may be used in many ways though out the system.
During the meeting the board gave approval to pursue Tennessee Scholars and the Gear Up Tennessee grant. It also approved revisions to several policies, making language changes required by new state laws which went into affect July 1.