This summer, Leah Ross joined 21 other Union County teachers to work at Marvin Ridge High School's sister school, Nanjing Normal High School in China. They taught in this private school where students attend a summer camp to strengthen their English skills and learn more about American culture.
The experience remains with Leah as she heads back into the classroom this week teaching electives at Cuthbertson High School.
Normally she said she has a little anxiety approaching a new year with 30 new students, but not this year.
"My confidence level has skyrocketed and I'm reenergized," she said.
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Leah didn't speak Chinese before the trip, but that didn't hinder her. The students in China know English; they start learning English from day one. The teachers taught all ages from fifth grade through 10th grade during their two-week trip.
Through her teaching at the camp, she saw similarities in the students in China and the students in Union County.
"Kids are kids," she said.
"Sometimes they'll speak out of turn, but they're enthusiastic and want to learn. They want approval."
She also saw many differences in the classroom setting. A typical school day in China runs 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. with 10 minute breaks between classes, six days a week and a two-hour lunch break. During the regular school year (not summer), the students go to dinner at 5 p.m. and return for a study hall until 9 p.m.
The Union County teachers also met with Chinese educators and participated in school events and activities.
"It was so far out of my shell to go to China and each day to teach a different group," Leah said. "It was amazing."