A Chinese Principal visited Kutztown School District as part of a China Exchange Initiative, concluding with a Thanksgiving Community Potluck Dinner.
About 70 people attended the potluck on Nov. 21, including KASD faculty, staff, students, and community members, “To honor Principal ZhaotangWang from China and to share with him a part of our Thanksgiving traditions,” said Rikki L. DeVough, Administrative Assistant to the Superintendent and KASD School Board Secretary.
“Our community has been so generous to the school district. We wanted to include them in his visit,” said Kutztown Area School DistrictSuperintendentKathy Metrick.
People from all different aspects of the community attended the Potluck Dinner, she said. There were representatives from the university, the Mennonite schools, local farmers, students and their families, school district employees, school board members and interested community members.
“It was a very nice mix!” said Metrick. “It was a wonderful way to honor Mr. Wang before he departed and to include the community in the exchange. I can’t say enough about our community and how they embraced this initiative.”
A KASD parent event took time from work to translate for part of the day when the district was unable to get another interpreter, she said.
During Principal Wang’s visit from Nov. 17 to, Nov. 21, there were a number of activities and events, including a dinner reception with board members and local dignitaries, a visit to Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, seeing Kutztown High’s production of “The Sound of Music,” three generation family dinner with the Metricks, visit to Kutztown Historical Society, attending a school board meeting, touring a farm, tour of Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center, and tour of Kutztown University Art Department.
“The purpose of the visit was the first step in establishing a partnership between our school and his school in Handan, China, in Hebei Province,” said Metrick.
She explained that the program is run by the China Exchange Initiative which started about 14 years ago.
“It is a collaborative effort between American philanthropists and the Chinese government to provide educational opportunities for American students and teachers to learn about China and vice versa,” said Metrick.
Now that Wang has visited KASD, Metrick will travel to China in the spring.
“We hope to provide communication and exchange possibilities for our students and teachers,” she said.
Metrick will spend a week in Beijing learning about the Chinese culture and educational system. Then, she will stay with Wang and visit his school for the second week.
“We learned so much from him regarding education and life in China. We learned a lot from the translators who helped us, too!” said Metrick.“We also benefited from so many of our community partners through this visit - the farming families, the Mennonite community, the University, many of our local vendors - so many people supported us in hosting his visit.”
“We also learned that music and smiles are international languages,” she said.
She hopes Wang learned a lot about cooperative learning, critical thinking and creativity in American schools.
“He was impressed with the warmth and generosity of the American people. He saw so much positivity, activity and caring for and among the people he interacted with,” said Metrick.
What Metrick enjoyed most from his visit was learning about his educational system and his culture.
“It was also great to learn about the Chinese educational system from him as an administrator and some of our translators who had been Chinese students.”
When asked if she learned anything that can be applied to Kutztown School District, Metrick responded, “Absolutely.”
“It’s always valuable to learn how other people and countries approach educational dilemmas,” said Metrick.
She added that Wang would love to send a teacher to Kutztown School District for a year to teach Mandarin, if KASD would send him a teacher to teach English.
“Obviously, that would have to be down the road, as we’d have to figure out how to schedule something like that!”
Students also had a chance to meet the Chinese principal. Wang observed school activities and classes at the elementary, middle and high schools.
“Virtually every student in the district had the opportunity to see him and some interacted with him more closely,” said Metrick. “Students asked him questions about his country and school. He had the opportunity to ask the students and teachers for information, as well.”
Metrick said the distric’s administrative staff, teachers, and students worked really hard to make sure this was the experience of a lifetime for Wang.
“The planning, presentations, and activities that went into hosting him made a huge difference in his American experience. It was rewarding and exhausting, exhiliarating and overwhelming,” said Metrick. “Bottom line - it was an unprecedented opportunity for us and for him.”