From out­sider to re­spected teacher

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By GAO BO gaobo@chi­nadaily.com.cn

To his col­leagues and stu­dents, Nurmemet Tu­niyaz is no longer just “the Xin­jiang guy”, but a re­spected teacher of English who’s known for his strong work ethic and ath­letic physique.

The 42-year-old, from the Xin­jiang Uygur au­ton­o­mous re­gion, has fol­lowed the same rou­tine since he be­gan teach­ing at the Bei­jing Space Mid­dle School in 2003. He al­ways ar­rives at 7 am, 20 min­utes ear­lier than his col­leagues, even though he has to take his 7-year-old son to a nearby pri­mary school first.

“My son has to wait at the gate for nearly half an hour be­causehe’s re­quired to get to school by 7:15 am,” Nurmemet said, “He’s well cared for there; ev­ery­one knows him.”

When he started at the school, Nurmemet was determined to prove him­self and to demon­strate the pro­fes­sional com­pe­tence of teach­ers from Xin­jiang. He trans­ferred to the school from Urumqi, the cap­i­tal of Xin­jiang, four years af­ter he mar­ried Guli­nar Key­oum, an aerospace en­gi­neer.

Although he had taught in Xin­jiang for eight years, he still had to prove his worth in Bei­jing. “I passed sev­eral ex­ams and took trial classes be­fore the school ac­cepted me,” he said.

As the only teacher from the Uygur eth­nic group, Nurmemet knew he was un­der heavy scru­tiny dur­ing his first few months at the mid­dle school in Bei­jing. “Some teach­ers whis­pered about me, and doubted my teach­ing abil­ity. They be­lieved my trans­fer was just a fa­vor be­cause of my wife’s job.”

Aware of the pres­sures, he re­quested the role of head teacher of a fresh­man class, and although he’s strict in the class­room, Nurmemet is friendly with the stu­dents af­ter school.

“I like play­ing bas­ket­ball, which is a link with the stu­dents,” he said, “If they see me as a friend, it’s eas­ier to im­prove their study habits.”

His wife’s heavy work­load means she’s only at home for three or four months a year, so Nurmemet has plenty of time to de­vote to his vo­ca­tion. His com­mit­ment has never wa­vered, not even af­ter the birth of his son, be­cause he knew he had been ac­cepted.

“In the be­gin­ning, I was called ‘that Xin­jiang guy’ by my col­leagues and some par­ents, but by the end of the first se­mes­ter, they were call­ing me ‘Teacher Nur’, be­cause they had wit­nessed my abil­ity and the ef­forts I made,” he re­called.

As the el­dest child in his fam­ily, high ex­pec­ta­tions were heaped on Nurmemet when he was young. His fa­ther was a driver who worked on a route be­tween Urumqi and Nurmemet’s home­town, Maigat in south­ern Xin­jiang, and it was his idea to send Nurmemet to a Man­darin-speak­ing school.

From his base in Bei­jing, Nurmemet has helped many peo­ple from his home­town, in­clud­ing ar­rang­ing per­for­mances for tra­di­tional Uygur mu­si­cians, such as the Do­ran Muqam Troupe, in Bei­jing and eight coun­tries in Europe.

More­over, he reg­u­larly in­vites his col­leagues in the cap­i­tal to his home­town to learn about life there. “In 2004, I in­vited two col­leagues for a week­long trip to Kash­gar, and a year later they ar­ranged for some of their friends to visit Xin­jiang,” he said. “That was what I wanted to see.”

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