Welcome to 中美学校交流:东来西往: The China-U.S. Student Exchange Blog.  My name is Heidi Steele, and I’m a Chinese teacher in the 7th year of building the Chinese program at the Gig Harbor and Peninsula High Schools in the Peninsula School District in Washington State. This year I’m working on developing our third relationship with a school in China. We’ve learned a great deal from the first two that will help to shape the third.

The central theme of our current endeavor is to build a partnership, not an exchange program. The term exchange program usually describes a program that is focused on one- or two-way student trips between schools that take place at regularly scheduled intervals. In contrast, a partnership is a multifaceted program that fosters mutual learning throughout the year and engages students across the school community. Tools such as shared web sites, blogs, and video conferencing enable communication over a distance between students, teachers, and administrators. A partnership may, or may not, include travel. When it does, the travel is tied to specific learning goals and often represents the culmination of a collaborative learning project.

I’ll be using this blog to share concrete advice based on previous experiences in the hopes that you can avoid some common pitfalls. In addition, I will document the process of developing our current partnership as a means of helping you build a strong relationship with a school in China.

In my next post I’ll describe some of the characteristics of a strong and sustainable partnership.

I welcome your comments and questions!

About Me

I began my study of Chinese as a twelve year old, inspired by two great aunts who taught English in China during the ‘30s and ‘40s. I later earned a Bachelors degree in International Studies with a focus on Asia from Portland State University, and a Masters degree in Chinese/English Translation and Interpretation from the Monterey Institute of International Studies. I made my first trip to China in 1979 and since then have returned dozens of times, including living in China for extended periods.

In 2005 I launched the Chinese language program in the Peninsula School District in Gig Harbor, WA. In 2009 our program was accepted into the Confucius Classroom Network sponsored by the Asia Society and Hanban (the Chinese government agency responsible for promoting Chinese language and culture abroad). I have managed two exchange programs in the past and am currently in the process of establishing new partnership with a high school in China.

Last summer I was the Chinese language director for the Middlebury-Monterey Language Academy program at Oberlin College. In addition, I serve on the Education Advisory Board for the Confucius Institute of  the State of Washington and have served on the board of the Chinese Language Teachers Association of Washington and the Washington Chinese Art and Culture Committee. My most recent trip to China was in December 2011, when I attended the Confucius Institutes and Classrooms World Meeting as a member of the Asia Society’s U.S. delegation.