Making a Change in China


Avani Samandur and Lauryn Azu

From July 1st to July 23rd, West Bloomfield High School (WBHS) teachers will be spending time in China, as part of a cultural exchange program with the University of Technology and Sciences in Beijing (UTSB). Teachers Bonnie Levey, Ryan Ridenour, Ellen Strzalkowski, Noel McHardy, and Diane Abel will be going to China for three weeks to teach college students about common American customs, mannerisms, culture, and spoken English.

This is Levey, Ridenour, and Abel’s first year working with the University, while it is McHardy and Strzalkowski’s second year venturing to China. This year, Strzalkowski will be an administrator at the program, working as the Head of Communications, and McHardy will be a Mentor Teacher for new teachers. Meanwhile, former history teacher Dr. Jill Adamczyk will be running the entire program.

Ridenour is excited to go to China because it is a “very low cost way to go to China because the program helps pay for the airfare and then we also get spending money, which is great”. Ridenour says that “The fact that we’re going to see what the academic environment is like in another country completely and get free vacation time? There’s no reason to say no, it’s awesome.”

Strzalkowski says that she is excited to bring back knowledge about “the rigor of curriculum, and the type of information that’s passed and consumed” in Chinese schools. She is excited to go back, saying “We gained a lot last year. We are looking for an even more enriching cultural experience, and then to learn even more from our students and colleagues at the University, and to learn more about how their education operates and the differences and similarities between our systems. Unfortunately, Strzalkowski will not be rejoining the WBHS faculty for the next school year. Instead, she will continue her stay in China in order to carry out her administrative duties. Ms. Levey is a little nervous, but excited at the same time to experience a new culture. She says, “It’s gonna be interesting, I’m a little nervous. I’m walking on total unchartered territory, But, I’ve always been a risk taker. And I’m glad Mrs. Abel is going with me.”

Let’s wish our WBHS teachers good luck in venturing on this exciting journey this summer. Hopefully they will have many interesting stories to share with students when they return in the fall.