By Mary E. B. Perry
More than ten years ago, Desert Sands Unified School District became part of an education exchange with teachers in Shanghai. The program was created in 2005 as a cooperative effort between the California School Boards Association (CSBA) and the Shanghai Municipal Education Commission (SHMEC) to promote cooperation between California and Shanghai schools.
The idea was to bring Chinese educators to the United States to understand our methods of teaching, particularly in the area of the arts, CTE (career technical education), and English to non-English speaking students. In exchange, teachers from the United States would go to Shanghai to learn more about the successes in Chinese education, particularly in mathematics.
In 2008 SHMEC began their annual program of selecting outstanding educators from schools in Shanghai to participate. That first year, 18 educators from the Pudong School District in Shanghai traveled to southern California. This year over 30 guests have arrived and will be hosted by Desert Sands, Arcadia, Cornoa-Norco and Apple Valley unified school districts. Earlier this month Superintendent Scott Bailey and DSUSD Board Vice President Gary Tomak were in Shanghai to learn more about Chinese education methods.
All of this year’s participating Chinese educators visited Desert Sands Unified School District on Friday, October 13. Members of the DSUSD staff spent part of the morning detailing programs used in our schools. The guests were then taken on a tour of our district office, participated in an old fashioned American BBQ, and then toured three of our schools, all International Baccalaureate schools, Amelia Earhart Elementary School, John Glenn Middle School, and La Quinta High School. Their bus left to return the group to their host districts while six remained at DSUSD.
Over their first weekend in the Coachella Valley, the six had a chance to get to know their host families and see a bit of the community. Special thanks to teachers Magee Reagan and Karl Krebs and to Principal Ann Morales for each hosting two of our international guests in their homes. A team of DSUSD staff put together the weekend tours and created an aggressive two-week schedule of participation in our school lesson plans. Feng Biwei (Victoria), Fan Chunmei (Fanny), Tany Hongbo (Tony) Qian Hongyi (Frank), Huang Beili (Emily), and Ling Jingbo (Linda) were introduced at the Tuesday, October 17 school board meeting to the trustees and to the community. Each took a moment to speak to the assembly about their goals while here in the United States.
Special thanks also go out to the community partners who so graciously welcomed our guests. The Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands provided a tour of the estate and gardens, complete with a Mandarin-speaking guide. The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway was a morning of hiking and taking in the views. The Living Desert, the Palm Springs Art Museum, and the Agua Caliente Cultural Museum and Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians had staff meet with the guests to discuss how they work with the school district to provide outreach and additional programming. The tour of Brandini Toffee and the time spent shopping at the COD Street Fair, Palm Springs VillageFest, and the Desert Hills Premium Outlets were all hits of the weekends. These activities provided a look at the Coachella Valley, allowed our guests to meet the community, and gave them some needed relaxation as they spent their evenings documenting their visit and preparing in-depth reports on what they have learned.
The results? As Board Vice President Gary Tomak said, “They return understanding the creativity used in American education and we return with an insight into their academic success.”
Mary E. B. Perry is the Public Information Officer for Desert Sands Unified School District.