Janesville, China forge school ties

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Frank Schultz
Wednesday, January 23, 2013

— Two teachers from China will join the Janesville School District's faculty next month, and 40 students from China are scheduled to spend part of the summer here.

Those are two results of Superintendent Karen Schulte's recent trip to China.

Schulte flew to China to forge relationships with Chinese universities and schools. Accompanying her was Robert Smiley, the district's chief information officer.

More results: A Beijing primary school will become the sister school of Janesville's Kennedy Elementary School, and up to six student teachers from China will work in Janesville high schools next fall.

Kennedy won a national award last year, based on relatively high tests scores and poverty rate. Officials at No. 3 Primary School in Beijing were so impressed that they want to set up a model classroom based on Kennedy, a high honor, Schulte said.

Smiley said he's working on ways to make it easy for students in each country to talk via Skype, an Internet video and audio communication system. One problem is the 14-hour time difference.

This summer, 20 fourth- and fifth-graders from China will attend a program with a like number of Janesville students for cultural and academic activities. At the same time, 20 Chinese high school students will be matched with 20 of their Janesville peers.

The 40 students coming in July will pay tuition. Schulte said the amount they will pay is still being worked out.

Schulte has said previously that she eventually wants Janesville to host tuition-paying Chinese students. She said Tuesday those students would likely study here in their last two years of high school in preparation for attending universities here.

That tuition could be a new revenue stream for the district, as it is for schools in Oxford, Mich., which Schulte and others local officials visited in November.

Schulte said Tuesday she didn't know when students would start attending school here regularly.

Speaking of money, a Wisconsin donor who asked not to be identified paid for Smiley's and Schulte's trip, Schulte said.

Schulte said she signed three memorandums of understanding last week: with Beijing Normal University; with Zhong Guan Cun Primary School No. 3, also known as No. 3 Primary School; and with Far East China School, a K-12 school, all in Beijing.

No. 3 Primary resembles a university campus, with 6,000 students and 40 to 60 students in a classroom, Schulte said.

No. 3 Primary is so big it has 31 English teachers, all of whom want to chat via Skype with Janesville teachers, Smiley said. Details are being worked out.

One thing prized by the teachers is the rare opportunity to talk to native speakers of English, Smiley said.

Smiley and Schulte stressed that the Americans and Chinese have much to learn from each other. Schulte, impressed with Chinese scores in math and science, wants to get some of that teaching expertise in Janesville, but that hasn't worked out, yet.

The teachers coming at the end of February are named Jessie, a woman, and Steven. It's common to adopt Western names because Chinese names prove too difficult for Westerners to pronounce, Schulte said.

The pair will work in the district six months.

Steven teaches software such as Photoshop and PowerPoint. He will work at Harrison and Kennedy elementary schools.

Steven also has interests in Chinese art and music, so he may be asked to share that with Janesville students who are studying Chinese, Schulte said.

Jessie has taught in New Zealand and has been in the Untied States before. She will bring her daughter, Fiona, 10.

Jessie is a teacher of gifted students and will work in the district's Challenge Program at Madison and Roosevelt schools.

Jessie and Steven will stay with host families and receive $300 a month, paid by the same anonymous donor, Schulte said.

Schulte said the teachers' school supports them and will holding their jobs for them, but she did not know if they would receive compensation during their six months.

Smiley said the schools that have become Janesville's partners are among the best in China.

The possibilities for Janesville-China connections keep on growing. After she returned, Schulte received an offer from a Beijing high school to host Janesville students.

Last updated: 8:00 am Monday, April 29, 2013

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