Chinese Principal Finds Friendship, Open Arms in Southern Lehigh School District

SOUTHERN LEHIGH MIDDLE SCHOOL – China and Pennsylvania came closer together this week, as Southern Lehigh educators gave Baoding Junior High School Principal Yang Xinghua a warm welcome to their classrooms and hearts.

The Chinese principal is visiting the school district as part of a three-week educators’ exchange program.  The principal speaks English fluently and presides over a magnet school for 2,300 linguistic students in Baoding, two hours southwest of Beijing.

Baoding Junior High School Principal Yang Xinghua smiles as Southern Lehigh Middle School students welcome her to their class on Thursday with a song in Mandarin Chinese. Photo by Judd Wilson, Southern Lehigh Tribune.

Southern Lehigh administrators, faculty, staff, and students have taken great care to welcome their guest.  As Yang visited the middle school Thursday morning, she entered through a gateway made of red balloons and traditional Chinese paper lanterns.  Art students had also prepared four large posters of Chinese dragons.  Principal Dr. Edward Donahue welcomed Yang on behalf of the school at a school-wide assembly.         

Southern Lehigh Middle School art students created a festive entryway to welcome Baoding Junior High School Principal Yang Xinghua to the school on Thursday. Photo by Judd Wilson, Southern Lehigh Tribune.

Assistant Superintendent Leah Christman explained that the purpose of the visit is to show Yang how American educators do such things as write curriculum, promote professional development, and evaluate teachers.  Ultimately, the goal is to set up a long-term, mutually-beneficial relationship between the schools and nations.  “If we don’t open up our kids’ eyes to what’s happening globally, we’re doing them a disservice,” Christman said.

Among the many classes Yang visited on Thursday was Qingchu Yu’s Mandarin Chinese class.  Qingchu is a visiting teacher-scholar from Wuhan Engineering Institute in China.  As Yang entered the classroom during fourth period, students greeted her in Chinese and sang a special song – a variant of “Beijing Welcomes You,” the theme song of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics.  Qingchu changed the Chinese lyrics to have students welcome Yang to “America” and “Pennsylvania.”  Yang then observed as students used iPads and video tutorials to practice speaking and writing Mandarin Chinese. 

A Southern Lehigh Middle School student practices writing Mandarin Chinese characters on an iPad in Qingchu Yu’s class Thursday. Photo by Judd Wilson, Southern Lehigh Tribune.

At the Southern Lehigh School Board meeting on Monday, Yang said that she had seen “a lot of differences and similarities” between the American and Chinese educational systems.  She thanked Christman and the school board members for their hospitality, saying “I really appreciate it.  I hope the friendship will last forever.”  Her wish will come true when Christman travels to China next spring with other American educators.  There, she will spend three weeks learning about the Chinese educational system, including one week at Yang’s school in Baoding.

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