Vice Principal Dean Helm and English language teacher, Jill Harlow, spent one week in Kunming, China meeting with government officials, schools, and English teachers in order to form partnerships for educational and cultural exchanges.
Denver and Kunming have officially been sister cities since 1986 through the organization, Sister Cities International, which seeks to promote peace and diplomacy by building relationships between cities. Campion Academy has recently become a member of Denver Sister Cities International as a partner for educational exchange.
During their visit, Helm, Harlow and their Chinese business partner, Niu Ben (Paul), head of Eagle’s Nest International, had a meeting with the Kunming City Deputy President of the Foreign Affairs Office, Wang Hao, and Deputy Chief, Cheng Hanjun. They presented some information about Campion Academy and the international student program with the broader goal of creating friendship and understanding between our countries and specifically, our regional cities. Helm commented, “I was very impressed with the openness of the government to pursue cultural exchange relationships with Campion Academy.”
Within hours of the meeting, Wang Hao had contacted the Ministry of Education in Kunming and had arranged meetings with principals for them at the Kunming Number 1 High School and the largest private English training institute in Kunming, C&F English School. As a result of these meetings, short-term educational and cultural tours based out of Campion will be promoted to the students of these schools. These two-week tours will allow Chinese students to experience the American educational system and gain a better understanding of our culture. This will be an excellent opportunity for students interested in studying at Campion long-term to see if it will be a good fit.
On the other hand, a group of current Campion students are making plans to visit Kunming for a cultural exchange and relationship building trip in June 2019. The students will have a chance to try their hands at different types of Chinese art, get an introduction to Chinese language, as well as visit unique and historical sites. They will partner with a class of Chinese students learning English to help them practice the language and develop friendships.
On the last day of the trip, Harlow presented teaching strategies at an English teachers’ training conference with nearly 400 teachers in attendance. Top English teachers from around the province were selected to give presentations on various pedagogical topics and Harlow was asked to speak on phonics and reading instruction in the United States. She featured video clips of local HMS Richards Elementary School teachers and Patricia Torres, Learning Resource and ELL teacher at Campion. The Chinese teachers were very impressed by their teaching styles and strategies and many expressed a desire to visit our schools for further observation and training. As a result, we are pursuing inviting a small group of Chinese teachers to also join in on a two-week exchange at Campion.
Kunming is known as the City of Eternal Spring because of the mild and pleasant climate. It is located in the Yunnan Province in the Southwest part of China. This province is known for clean air, mountains, lakes, and is the largest exporter of flowers in Asia. It is also unique because of its diversity as it is home to 26 different Chinese ethnic groups. “The beauty of the city, the people, and the culture is something that our own students will appreciate as we continue on this journey with the Kunming area,” explained Helm.
Another highlight was meeting with family members of Campion graduate, Jerry Wang (2018), who comes from Kunming. His Great-Aunt worked as a journalist all of her life and sat down to talk with us about the history of the American Volunteer Group, the Flying Tigers, in the Yunnan Province, documented in a book she edited. People in Kunming and across the Yunnan province remember and value the historical friendship they have had with Americans since the Flying Tigers came as volunteers to help them during the Japanese invasion in 1941. The Flying Tigers were a group of American pilots who volunteered to help the people of the Yunnan province by flying in supplies, attacking the Japanese air force, and reopening the essential supply route, the Burma Road, which the Japanese had blocked, prior to the United States officially joining World War II. In the spirit of the Flying Tigers, Campion Academy and the people of Kunming are eager to continue to develop friendship and cooperation between our regions of the world.