When school Superintendent C. Richard Canfield met Hengjai Liu for the first time recently, Ms. Liu presented him with a laminated map of China, her home country.
“Gift-giving is a big part of China’s culture,” Dr. Canfield said, explaining that he has since placed the map in the school lobby. He said that Ms. Liu highlighted on the map the town in China where she grew up and told Dr. Canfield that she chose Sandwich over several other towns that offered her work because of its resemblance to her birthplace.
“She said, ‘I loved Sandwich because I knew I wouldn’t be homesick. It reminded me of my hometown because I have to cross a bridge,’” he related.
Ms. Liu recently accepted the position of Chinese language teacher in the Sandwich Public Schools beginning in September.
“She should be a great addition,” Sandwich High School Principal Ellin J. Booras said of the 26-year-old. Dr. Booras said that interest among the Sandwich High student body in studying Chinese has been “very strong.” She said that at this point there are 22 students who have signed up for the course. Twelve are seniors, four are juniors, four are sophomores and two are incoming freshmen. Dr. Booras said the number could go even higher, since freshmen will still be scheduling their courses during the summer.
Ms. Liu will also be teaching a section of Chinese to all the 8th grade classes.
Dr. Booras said that the Sandwich High course catalog will list Chinese 1 and 2, but for the coming fall semester, students will only be taking Chinese 1. “You have to take Chinese 1 first before you can take 2,” she said, pointing out that the expectation is for Chinese 3 and Chinese 4 to be offered in the fall of 2013.
Dr. Canfield said that the addition of Chinese to the Sandwich school curriculum will address a growing need as students prepare themselves for college and future careers.
“What it really is doing is recognizing the very significant global economic presence that China has become today,” Dr. Canfield said. “You just can’t ignore it. Some do, but I think that’s a real mistake.”
The superintendent said that offering Chinese will open up a wide range of career opportunities for students. He mentioned that his own daughter was a Far Eastern studies major in college, and that Japanese was her language of study. He said that the opportunities that came her way because of her knowledge of Japanese “have just been phenomenal.” He noted that China has now outgrown Japan in terms of its global economic presence and suggested that there could be widespread opportunities in the business world for someone versed in Chinese.
What it really is doing is recognizing the very significant global economic presence that China has become today.
Superintendent Richard Canfield
“The idea that the people who handle it, the interpreting, would all be Chinese because they speak English, as opposed to having some who are American who understand Chinese, is just a real mistake,” he said.
Dr. Canfield pointed out that a number of schools in Connecticut, where he lived and worked before arriving in Sandwich, have already developed partnerships with the Republic of China. He mentioned that school superintendents and high school principals traveled to China on cultural exchange trips, and hosted their Chinese peers here, as well.
Ms. Liu was born in Dalian, China, and started studying English when she was in China’s equivalent of middle school, she stated in her job application documents.
“Her vocabulary is really exceptional,” Dr. Canfield noted.
She studied at Beijing Foreign Studies University, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in English. In 2010, she moved to the United States and enrolled in the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, where she earned her master’s degree in bilingual and multi-cultural education this year.
Dr. Canfield said that he was greatly impressed during the interview process with Ms. Liu’s enthusiasm. “Very bright, and her goal is to be a really great teacher,” he said. According to Dr. Canfield, Ms. Liu has ambitions beyond just teaching one or two classes. He said that Ms. Liu told him she envisions a program dedicated to learning Chinese language and culture that would engage the entire Sandwich community—students and adults.
“What she is more interested in is developing a sister community relationship with her hometown in China,” Dr. Canfield explained.
Ms. Liu is currently living in Amherst, but plans to be in Sandwich in early August, Dr. Canfield said. He said that she is looking for a place to live in Sandwich and has asked the superintendent for help in securing a new home. Dr. Canfield has asked that if anyone has independent living accommodations they can offer Ms. Liu, to please contact the superintendent’s office at 508-888-1054.
“It can be very enriching, if people look at it as that kind of an opportunity,” Dr. Canfield said.