LSU College of Education Graduates to Teach English in China
BATON ROUGE – Lesley Bergeron and Camille Morgan, recent graduates of LSU’s Elementary Holmes Program, are spending 10 months in Huangshi, China, teaching oral English to high school students.
Though she admits to initially feeling nervous about navigating a new culture, Bergeron’s confidence in her teaching abilities remains strong. Both women credit the LSU College of Education’s five-year Holmes Program with equipping them with the knowledge and skills they feel will help them through their experiences in China.
“LSU prepared us best through the Holmes program and student teaching,” said Morgan, a native of Baton Rouge. “They taught us that it is important to see our students as individuals and to teach the whole child. This aspect of education is not seen very often in a Chinese classroom. We also learned that being flexible is essential when being a teacher. This has helped us greatly as we have transitioned into teaching in China.”
Bergeron, who is originally from Lafayette, believes that the experience will strengthen her friendship with Morgan. The two met during their senior year at the LSU College of Education and soon discovered that they shared a desire to take their teaching abilities abroad to benefit non-English speaking students.
“Camille and I have grown even closer through this experience,” Bergeron said. “We were already great friends when we embarked on this journey together, but living together and being thrown outside of our comfort zones has given us a chance to learn even more about one another. We have worked side by side as teachers, discussing lesson ideas, discipline strategies and extra things to benefit our students outside of class. I can’t imagine how close we will be after this year together.”
The international teacher placement opportunity was made possible by Zhong Relations, a nonprofit organization that helps place American teachers in Chinese schools. The program assists participants in obtaining work visas and the purchasing of airline tickets. Training sessions for departing teachers are held to provide instruction in Chinese culture and Mandarin, as well as advice about what to expect while teaching and living in China. Teachers are provided with a furnished apartment, salary, allowance for utilities, all teaching materials and office space, as well as a vacation stipend for the Chinese New Year.
While they’ve enjoyed the new culture, friends and experiences, Bergeron and Morgan agree that the most rewarding aspect of their trip has been making connections with their students.
“The students’ excitement when you remember their names or things they told you in a conversation is incredible,” Bergeron said. “One of my students almost passed out when he told me hello in the hallway and I remembered that his name was Ricky and that he loves Harry Potter. He just couldn’t believe that I knew who he was.”
Morgan agrees and makes an effort to engage her students and work with them on a personal level. She said that most students respond well to this form of teaching.
“In China, the students are under a lot of pressure to succeed and therefore have very long school days, and their teacher’s main focus is on their test scores,” she explained. “We’ve enjoyed building relationships with our students and seeing them as individuals, rather than just a score. It has been very rewarding to talk with students on a more individualized basis and showing them a different style of teaching.”
The Holmes Program is one of the celebrated graduate programs offered by the Department of Educational Theory, Policy and Practice in the College of Education. It is designed to include an undergraduate degree in education followed by a fifth year of work at the graduate level.
For more information about the College of Education’s Holmes five-year elementary programs, visit www.lsu.edu/coe.