WILLMAR -- The warm welcome Willmar extended to a visiting Chinese teacher has been noticed by the Teachers of Critical Languages Program.
"This is a great placement," Eliza Doton said Friday. "The community support just overwhelms us."
Doton is a program officer with the American Councils for International Education in Washington, D.C. The organization oversees the Teachers of Critical Languages Program, part of the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
Doton visited Willmar Senior High Thursday and Friday to observe Chinese teacher Bai Jinguo and his Willmar mentor teacher Todd Lynum. She also taped a short segment for the district's "Cardinal Clips" cable television program.
Doton said she enjoyed watching Bai and Lynum in their classrooms. "They have just a great dynamic," she said.
Bai is an experienced teacher from China, teaching English at an elite high school in Harbin, China. Here, he teaches Chinese language classes. Sometimes, he and Lynum teach together, and sometimes they will each work with half a class at a time.
Bai came to Willmar last summer and will be here through June. In addition to teaching with Lynum and in his own classroom, he has made friends in the community, earned a Minnesota driver's license and tasted lutefisk.
Senior High Principal Rob Anderson said students have adjusted their schedules to take additional Chinese classes while Bai is here. "That's a real tribute" to the popular program, he added.
"The enrollment speaks for itself, 184 Chinese students in a small town Minnesota," Doton said.
Doton said the program chooses teachers who are fluent in English and are creative and open-minded to learning about the American education system.
"Bai Jinguo really understands this," she said. He has learned how to relate to American high school students, and he'll have new ideas he can use when he returns to China.
He'll also be able to tell people about Willmar and the experience of living in a small community, she said.
When people in other countries think of America, they often think of New York or Los Angeles, Doton said, but Bai will have a different perspective to share.
The Teachers of Critical Languages Program will continue to be involved with the Willmar Chinese program, Doton said.
"The goal of the program is to be a support system," to help schools grow their programs, she said.
"Just because Bai Jinguo has to leave in June, it doesn't mean our relationship is over," she said. The program offers grants and other support for schools, in addition to placing teachers.
Doton's advice: "Keep doing what you're doing; keep Chinese exciting."