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Mennonite Partners in China Teachers Honored in China


Todd Hanson (rights) works with two of his students, Liling (left) and Wenji (right) at the Sichuan Teachers College in Nanchong, China. Hanson works with Mennonite Partners in China through Mennonite Mission Network and Mennonite Church Canada Witness.

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February 2007
-by Krista Allen, with reports from Mennonite Mission Network

Chengdu, China – Four teachers with Mennonite Partners in China have chosen to receive their first provincial “Most Excellent Foreign Teachers” award.

Schools in China have always appreciated the work of teachers from MPC (formally China Educational Exchange). In the provincial capital of Chengdu, the four MPC teachers, Todd Hanson, Catherine McKinlay, Carol Park and Holly Showalter, along with 44 others, were recognized at an awards ceremony on December 22. Hanson’s service is supported by Mennonite Church Canada Witness and Mennonite Mission Network while the other three MPC recipients are Mennonite Central Committee workers.

Hanson said the recognition is another indication of the importance of English teachers in China and that it reaffirms the reputation of the MPC instructors.

Over MPC’s 25-year history, schools have openly expressed appreciation for the various teachers sent by MPC. As China continues to open its borders, many more foreign teachers are arriving in the region but “many teachers come for the experience, a chance to travel, or some other reasons not necessarily related to teaching,” said award recipient Todd Hanson. MPC have been asked repeatedly to send more teachers for both the rural schools, which have little opportunity to attract foreign teachers, and for larger schools looking for more qualified teachers where there are none.

Cai Li, former director of international education for the Sichuan Provincial Education Bureau, said the relationship between China and MPC has stood the test of time and weathered the many changes since China first began opening up to foreigners.

“Considering the lasting length of time, number of people involved and things accomplished, the achievement is great,” Li said. “This result depends on the devotion and dedication of the teachers and relies on a strong sense of commitment and treasure of friendship.”

Myrrl Byler, director of Mennonite Partners in China, said the honor was significant.

“It means that these folks are respected enough that their departments and schools consider it important to go through the paperwork necessary to suggest them as candidates for this honor,” Byler said. “To be selected from the many who are nominated is further affirmation of these teachers’ commitment, professionalism in teaching, and love for their students and work.”

Although the need for foreign teachers continues, the central government is increasing the requirements. As a result, it is becoming increasingly difficult for people with no teaching experience or training to be invited by universities. Schools look to MPC to fill these positions. Hanson said schools sometimes ask for more MPC teachers due to difficult experiences with other foreign teachers. The new requirements will increase the demand for qualified teachers from MPC.

MPC builds relationships with students and carries out projects with Chinese partners in educational institutions and local government organizations. There are currently 17 teachers working in China through MPC. In the organization’s 25-year history, 290 foreign workers have taught in Chinese schools.