Bonds sealed through years of teach­ing and learn­ing

China Daily (Canada) - - SHANGHAI - By CHEN LIANG and LI YINGQING

Joan Boulerice’s de­vo­tion to teach­ing English in China has helped her strike up a friend­ship with a Chi­nese woman who later be­came Boulerice’s as­sis­tant, li­brar­ian and room­mate.

The Amer­i­can teacher’s de­vo­tion and love for her stu­dents also has moved many of her for­mer Chi­nese stu­dents, who have es­tab­lished an ac­count they’ve named Joan’s Cot­tage Fund, to buy a cot­tage on the coast of Maine, Boulerice’s fa­vorite place, for their teacher af­ter her re­tire­ment in China.

While teach­ing English at Hanzhong Nor­mal Univer­sity in 1992, Boulerice met Li Jingyuan in Hanzhong, Shaanxi province, Li’s home­town. Li, a grad­u­ate of North­west Univer­sity in Xi’an, was work­ing as a vol­un­teer guide at a lo­cal mu­seum. A pas­sion­ate afi­cionado of English, Li started learn­ing the lan­guage with Boulerice. They be­came close friends.

As Boulerice pre­pared to leave Hanzhong to move to Bei­jing to teach at Bei­jing In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies Univer­sity, she pre­sented Li with an op­por­tu­nity to pur­sue two years of ad­vanced stud­ies in English at the col­lege.

Af­ter Bei­jing, Boulerice taught for eight years at Xi’an For­eign Af­fairs Col­lege. Li soon joined her there as an English teacher and the two be­came col­leagues.

At the col­lege in Xi’an, Boulerice opened another Bao Qiong Li­brary and of­ten gave lec­tures to her stu­dents. Li was both a li­brar­ian and an in­ter­preter for Boulerice’s lec­tures. “I don’t need her to trans­late if I only want stu­dents to prac­tice English, but some­times I want to tell stu­dents some­thing very im­por­tant, and they won’t be able to un­der­stand it in English,” Boulerice said.

Li fol­lowed Boulerice to Kun­ming and be­came her as­sis­tant at Yun­nan Nor­mal Univer­sity. “We are kind of like a team,” Li said.

Since she’s not a fac­ulty mem­ber at the col­lege, Li has made a liv­ing as an English tu­tor for nearly 20 stu­dents in Kun­ming. She said that her stu­dents, aged from 6 to 16, learned English through read­ing books in English with her.

Af­ter teach­ing in China for 30 years, Boulerice has had thou­sands of Chi­nese stu­dents. Be­cause of the pop­u­lar­ity of so­cial net­work­ing apps such as WeChat, many of Boulerice’s for­mer stu­dents have re­mained in con­tact with their Amer­i­can teacher. They have set up 14 chat groups on WeChat, ac­cord­ing to Li.

Last year, 36 of them came from 12 cities across the coun­try to Kun­ming to celebrate Boulerice’s 60th birth­day.

Af­ter the birth­day party, they set up the cot­tage fund, hop­ing to help their teacher af­ford a small home for her re­tire­ment years.

“Joan has never been mar­ried, has al­most no rel­a­tives in the US, and no pen­sion be­cause of work­ing in China,” Li told a lo­cal news­pa­per. “What if she has to re­turn home af­ter her re­tire­ment in China? We all wor­ried about the ques­tion.”

So they de­cided to set up the fund, which has raised more than 80,000 yuan ($12,494). Some stu­dents told Boulerice that they would put money into the bank ac­count ev­ery year.

“I’m just blessed by my stu­dents’ be­hav­ior,” Boulerice said.

But she is not think­ing re­tire­ment at all, she said. She wants to work with the univer­sity as long as she can.

“The school wants me here, def­i­nitely,” she said. “I worked hard, I made a con­tri­bu­tion, and there­fore they don’t want to lose me.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.