Teachers travel to China in exchange program
— Queen Anne’s County Teacher of the Year 2016-17 and kindergarten teacher at Church Hill Elementary, Tamara Forte will be continuing the school year after school lets out for the summer, teaching students in China. Sponsored by the Suzhou Gusu District Board of Education and the Suzhou Foreign Exchange & Cooperation Center, in collaboration with Chesapeake College, this is the 10th year for the summer program trip since its beginnings in 2007.
The goal of the program varies from year to year, explained Forte. This year the goal is to teach Chinese elementar y educators how to teach English more creatively with the hands-on, interactive approach that is used in the states and specifically by Queen Anne’s County Public Schools.
Forte will be joined by Jon Longest from Chesapeake College. Longest, who will be co-teaching with Forte, will be the Chesapeake College representative for the teaching exchange this summer. Longest is EMS Program Director at the college. The two will leave on June 25 and return July 9. In exchange for teaching, Suzhou will pay part of the flight expenses, but the American educators will be responsible for providing materials and small gifts for the students, as well as teaching aids, explained Forte.
Many of these items, Forte said, she will need to purchase and make with her own funds. For example, eye ball pointers to read with, letter vests to spell words with, and clay to create hands-on learning. All materials will be left there as a gift to the school, she said.
Forte, who is known for her enthusiastic teaching style at CHES, said immediately after being invited to participate she began thinking of all the things she would share: karate spelling, making words with clay, and Cat in the Hat rhyming hats — just to name a few. “The ideas were quickly coming, and I was so excited to be able to share my passion and my fun, memorable way of teaching,” said Forte.
“These teachers are looking for ways to teach more creatively in the classroom. What better way to teach reading and writing than to explore with Dr. Seuss?” Forte concluded, “My plan began with ideas of rhyming and Seuss-y fun.” However, the trip did come with several expenses not covered by Suzhou. Other teachers and friends asked Forte how they could help and where they could send donations. To give people who were interested in participating — without having to make the trip to China — a way to help, Forte set up an Amazon Wish List and Go Fund Me page. She is hoping to raise approximately $2,000 to put toward supplies and travel expenses.
“This is an amazing opportunity that I could not pass up on,” said Forte, “I am excited to represent the U.S., Maryland, and QACPS, and am excited to build relationships and connections; and l am excited to learn all I can to be a more globally educated teacher and contributor to society. I can’t wait to see what I can bring back to our county and my classroom.”
The trip will allow for five days of lecture and an opportunity to visit notable places of interest in Beijing, including the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, and the Forbidden City.
Left, Church Hill Elementary kindergarten teacher Tamara Forte and Jon Longest, EMS Program Director at Chesapeake College, prepare for their summer teaching trip to China.