Ren Hai Tao and Xu Jing have learned quite a bit about Western Culture.
Both are English teachers at the Niulanshan Secondary School in Beijing in China that serves as Sierra High’s sister school.
They’ve spent nearly a month at Sierra High as part of the sister-school agreement established in 2014. The two teachers are helping expose Sierra High students to Chinese cultural history in addition to serving as a support resource in the classroom.
Ren Hai Tao is also known as ‘Jack’ – that’s his American name – while Xu Jing goes by ‘Susie.’
“We didn’t know anything about the (U.S.) culture when we first arrived,” Susie said on Friday.
She introduced eastern culture by conducting a cooking class consisting of foods from her northern China province to those at Sierra.
This was an instructional component of the sister-school program, where the visiting teachers are paired with teachers from Manteca Unified, with the emphasis of exposing students to Chinese Cultural History while, at the same time, serving as a support resource in the classroom.
Jack, for his part, provided a display on the art of Chinese paper cutting and calligraphy.
The two Niulanshan teachers along with 48 of their students, ranging in ages from 14 to 16, arrived in the U.S. in time for their Jan. 22 assignment.
Besides Sierra, the youngsters mixed in at some of the MUSD feeder elementary schools – namely, Brock Elliott, Nile Garden, Stella Brockman and Veritas.
They stayed with host families while participating in the instructional school day and enjoying some of the afterschool activities.
Some of that Western Culture experience by the visitors included dining out at Red Robin, Applebee’s and Panda Express.
Jack and Susie, who have a respective 15 and 12 years experience in teaching, described the latter as “American Chinese” food.
They stayed at a nearby hotel, where SHS office manager Stella Oliver provided transportation to and from school.
“She really helped us out with arranging our schedule and getting us acclimated during our stay,” Susie said.
Students, prior to their departure, had a chance to visit the original Disneyland in Anaheim. China, incidentally, just opened the Shanghai Disneyland Park to go with the other Disney theme park in Hong Kong.
Jack and Susie didn’t make that trip. Thus far, they’ve visited San Francisco, Yosemite National Park and Calaveras Big Trees, to name a few. Next up is Monterey followed by a return trip to San Francisco.
Their latest experience was designed to help them become better teachers in the classroom.
“I’ll come back knowing that teaching (English) is more than just taking tests,” Susie said.
Prior to their visit, the two teachers only knew of proper English opposed to their exposure to American English filled with slang and various meanings to certain words.
They also noticed the difference in Chinese foods. “We’re from the northern part of the China – every (local Chinese restaurant) is more southern China,” Jack said.
In addition, they missed celebrating the recent Chinese New Year with friends and family.
Jack, who found a liking to U.S. beers, did sip a glass of wine to honor the Year of the Monkey while Susie contacted family back home.
Manteca Unified has served as a host to visiting students from Beijing since 2012 through sister-school agreements. The purpose of the program is to not only create educational opportunities by providing American and Chinse curriculum to help students from both counties to further their education in world class universities but to also better prepare MUSD for competing in the global economy.
Shannon Beattie and Dora Michelotos were selected from a lottery of interested teachers from Woodward School to teach English courses in China during the summer of 2015.