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Chinese Ministry Of Education Delegates Visit NHS



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Chinese Ministry Of Education Delegates Visit NHS

By Eliza Hallabeck

Newtown was one stop of many for a visiting group of dignitaries from the Chinese Ministry of Education last week. Along with Newtown High School, the group also toured Yale University and met with the University of Connecticut admissions office during its stay in Connecticut.

The 16 dignitaries from the Zheijian and Hibei Provinces of China visited NHS on Thursday, December 9, as part of a 20-day visit to the United States. According to the high school, the dignitaries also visited California and Washington, D.C. Newtown High School was the group’s one high school tour.

Newtown’s connection to China began before Superintendent of Schools Janet Robinson stepped into her position in the district in 2008. Dr Robinson journeyed to the area in 2007, and continued relationships she began there once in Newtown. By February 2008, 20 delegates from the Shandong Province, China, visited NHS, and were welcomed by Newtown High School Assistant Principal Jason Hiruo, who has taken on the role of program coordinator for the now growing China initiative in Newtown.

After the visiting delegates toured the school’s gymnasium, career center, and classrooms, and learned about the guidance department, they were presented with lunch prepared by advanced culinary students under the guidance of culinary teacher Brian Neumeyer.

Mr Hiruo called Newtown’s China initiative “a tremendous success in three years for our kids.”

The high school was offered as a point of interest, according to Dr Robinson, by the state of Connecticut’s Department of Education, due to the growing success of the Newtown China Initiative.

By the end of December, Mr Hiruo said a new website will be launched for the Newtown China Initiative.

Since 2008, the Newtown China Initiative has grown to include teaching Chinese as a language at NHS with exchange teacher Ding Hong staying on for his second school year in 2010-2011, and will branch out next year to the middle school and Reed Intermediate School. Sandy Hook School will also launch pilot a program next year, and Principal Dawn Hochsprung was one of the Newtown administrators in attendance on Thursday to welcome the visitors.

Dr Robinson also attended, and ate lunch with the delegates before exchanging gifts with Ministry of Education Deputy Director General Jidong Zhang, who also acted as translator for the day.

After a brief walk through Newtown’s then still-in-the-works gymnasium, Mr Hiruo and Ms Hochsprung led the delegates to the school’s career center, where Peg Ragaini and Kitty Latowicki described what the career center does for students. Ms Ragaini explained the school’s mentoring and internship programs, along with the junior/senior project course, and Ms Latowicki described the school’s college fair.

From the career center, the delegates were brought to the school’s Lecture Hall to hear a presentation from guidance department Chair Cathy Ostar, who explained the role of school counselors and the make-up of the guidance department.

At the beginning of the luncheon Mr Hiruo related how much he is looking forward to his next trip to China, scheduled for April, when he will again meet with Mr Jidong to discuss a summer program and working with the Ministry of Education for Newtown’s China Initiative.

The delegation’s visit also comes on the heels of Newtown High School and the Newtown School District being accepted into the Hanban-Asia Society Confucius Classrooms Network, which represents more than 15,000 students in 23 states and the District of Columbia; public schools, independent schools, and charter schools; elementary, middle, and high schools; and urban, rural, and suburban schools. Each Hanban-Asia Society Confucius Classroom will be matched with a partner school in China to enhance opportunities for language learning and to provide students, teachers, and administrators with opportunities to conduct exchanges and joint projects. The network is linked through an online community where teachers will share resources and best practices in an effort to build models for the field.

As a model school, Mr Hiruo said NHS’s responsibilities will grow to include sharing information about the Newtowns China Initiative with other school districts.

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