Ruyan Teng: Build­ing education su­per­high­way for youth

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSS AMERICAS - By DONG LESHUO in Wash­ing­ton leshuodong@chi­nadai­

Al­though it looks just like any other house on Trav­i­lah Road in Rockville, Mary­land, Ruyan Teng’s house is dif­fer­ent.

Not only did she de­sign and build it her­self, she cur­rently uses it as a base for pro­vid­ing unique ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties to the chil­dren and teenagers of her com­mu­nity.

Teng, who trained as a com­puter en­gi­neer, has been de­voted to en­hanc­ing the education of young stu­dents for more than 10 years.

“Education said.

In 2005, Teng founded a small, af­ter­school class to teach el­e­men­tary and middle school stu­dents about com­puter lan­guage, pro­gram­ming and Web de­sign. All classes were held in her house, which be­came the C&T Youth Tech­nol­ogy Academy of to­day.

“My own chil­dren were my ini­tial mo­ti­va­tion when I started,” Teng said.

Teng’s son David was born in 1995 and her daugh­ter Grace was born in 1998.

As her kids grew and started go­ing to school, Teng re­al­ized that hav­ing been raised and ed­u­cated in China, she knew lit­tle about Amer­i­can education.

Teng had come to the US in 1991 to earn a mas­ter’s in in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy at Ge­orge Ma­son Univer­sity.

“I re­ally wanted to learn how the Amer­i­can education sys­tem works in or­der to pro­vide the right way of par­ent­ing my chil­dren while rais­ing them in the US,” Teng said.

She be­gan by be­com­ing ac­tive in school pro­grams and did re­search on af­ter-school en­rich­ment pro­grams.

“I did not find ex­actly what I thought would fit my chil­dren’s needs,” Teng said.

“I re­al­ized what I needed to do was be­come in­volved, learn and then be­gin to change the ap­proach I could use to pro­vide for my chil­dren’s needs,” Teng said.

In 2001, com­puter sci­ence and dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy were boom­ing.


all about

de­tails,” Teng

“My son and his friend, though only 6 years old, were very in­ter­ested in the new tech­nol­ogy,” Teng said.

The school did not pro­vide any such classes at that time. Teng did not want the kids to miss out on the best op­por­tu­ni­ties to learn the most ad­vanced tech­nol­ogy. She and her hus­band, Xiaom­ing Chen, a com­puter soft­ware ar­chi­tect, be­gan to teach their chil­dren, as well as their chil­dren’s friends, at their home.

Soon, Teng’s pro­gram had a large fol­low­ing, as fam­i­lies had sim­i­lar goals for their kids.

As the classes grew, Teng saw there was an in­ter­est on the part of par­ents in build­ing a pri­vate youth learn­ing cen­ter to pro­vide a wide range of stud­ies not typ­i­cally of­fered in schools.

Classes grew to in­clude cre­ative writ­ing, pub­lic speak­ing, com­mu­nity ser­vice and lead­er­ship de­vel­op­ment, all sub­jects that are, in Teng’s words, “just as im­por­tant as com­puter tech­nol­ogy skills”.

Though they started C&T (Chen & Teng) by pro­vid­ing knowl­edge and skills to young peo­ple, Teng was al­ways clear that this was not her ul­ti­mate goal.

“My ed­u­ca­tional phi­los­o­phy, which was shaped by my ed­u­ca­tional ex­pe­ri­ence, is that first and fore­most, education should pro­duce ‘good peo­ple’,” Teng said.

“The traits of grit, in­tegrity, zest, op­ti­mism and grat­i­tude don’t seem to be the fo­cus of the typ­i­cal class­room,” Teng said. “C&T has al­ways been try­ing to fo­cus on the at­tributes that the typ­i­cal class­room might miss.”

“I felt, in Amer­i­can schools, the kids were not al­ways get­ting op­por­tu­ni­ties to build th­ese traits, al­most like char­ac­ter de­vel­op­ment was not re­ceiv­ing enough at­ten­tion,” Teng said.

In 2009, Teng learned about Yale Univer­sity’s Build­ing Bridges pro­gram, which sends col­lege stu­dents to teach chil­dren in ru­ral ar­eas af­fected by nat­u­ral dis­as­ters.

“I re­al­ized if col­lege stu­dents could do this, why not high school stu­dents?”

It was a year af­ter the deadly earth­quake hit Sichuan prov­ince, which caused cat­a­strophic dev­as­ta­tion in south­west China.

Teng, to­gether with five Amer­i­can teenagers, in­clud­ing both of her kids, went to Shi­fang, Sichuan, and spent 10 days there, teach­ing chil­dren who had lost their schools and homes in the earth­quake.

“It was the first time we had been ex­posed to such poverty,” Teng said. “How­ever, no one on the team com­plained about that when they came back. All they re­mem­bered was how beau­ti­ful China was and how sweet the kids were.”

That set Teng’s de­ter­mi­na­tion to start the Youth Build­ing Bridges (YBB) pro­gram, which en­ables Amer­i­can and Chi­nese stu­dents to travel to ru­ral, poverty-stricken ar­eas in China, teach­ing and shar­ing their knowl­edge within the pri­mary and sec­ondary school sys­tems.

In the years since, Teng and YBB’s foot­print has reached ru­ral ar­eas not only in Sichuan, but also in Shan­dong, Zhe­jiang, An­hui and Gansu provinces.

This June, for the eighth time, YBB will send Amer­i­can high school stu­dents to Jishis­han in Gansu prov­ince, an im­pov­er­ished ru­ral com­mu­nity. The Amer­i­cans will not only be teach­ing, but will also in­ter­act with peo­ple from Shang­hai Jiao Tong Univer­sity and mem­bers of the Chi­nese com­mu­nity.

“There have been so many mo­ments that have ex­cited me,” Teng said.

“The ex­cite­ment comes from watch­ing stu­dents — chil­dren sim­i­lar to my own — en­hance their own ex­pe­ri­ences and grow their lead­er­ship skills. See­ing th­ese re­sults is re­ally ex­cit­ing for me. It gives me an op­por­tu­nity, through the stu­dents, to ben­e­fit oth­ers, which is both ex­cit­ing and very grat­i­fy­ing.

“I’ve been so ex­cited by watch­ing this pro­gram grow and branch out into so many di­rec­tions. Be­ing in­volved in this en­deavor has made me feel more com­fort­able in a for­eign coun­try; it has helped me make the United States my se­cond home,” Teng said.

Be­ing a first-gen­er­a­tion im­mi­grant, Teng has been greatly in­volved in con­nect­ing young Chi­nese Amer­i­cans to the lo­cal com­mu­nity.

She started the In­terGen­er­a­tions pro­ject to bring both YBB and C&T stu­dents to serve at the Ring House se­nior cen­ter.

“We try to pro­vide op­por­tu­ni­ties for stu­dents to be­come in­volved and con­nect with oth­ers so that they want to give back (to the com­mu­nity), so that their mo­ti­va­tion comes from in­side, not from out­side pres­sure like a schools’ ser­vice learn­ing hours re­quire­ment,” Teng said.

To Teng, all of C&T’s pro­grams strive to con­nect stu­dents to learn­ing, ser­vice, cu­rios­ity, and growth, be­cause they are in­ter­nally driven to ex­plore them.

“The Chi­nese-Amer­i­can com­mu­nity can re­ally ben­e­fit from open­ing our­selves up to unique ex­pe­ri­ences,” Teng said.

“Sure, there is com­fort in fa­mil­iar­ity, but it is re­ally ben­e­fi­cial to ex­pand a fam­ily’s ex­pe­ri­ences and to in­ter­act with the whole ar­ray of peo­ple that live in the US,” Teng said.

“A big part of C&T is to build bridges — es­pe­cially for Chi­nese-Amer­i­can fam­i­lies — into the Amer­i­can education sys­tem and into other cul­tural com­mu­ni­ties. Also, we build bridges be­tween the United States and China. Even in China, we build bridges be­tween the ma­jor eco­nomic pow­ers and the ru­ral, im­pov­er­ished com­mu­ni­ties.” Teng said.

“YBB is build­ing a global cul­tural and ed­u­ca­tional su­per-high­way. That is my goal in life,” she said.


Ruyan Teng started C&T Youth Tech­nol­ogy Academy in her Rockville, Mary­land, home be­cause lo­cal schools weren’t of­fer­ing the cour­ses she wanted for her chil­dren.

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