skip navigation

Delegation of Western New York Educators Gets a First-hand Look at Chinese Schools

WNY educators delegation at Hanban/Confucius Institute Headquarters

From October 6-14, a delegation of nine Buffalo-area school administrators and school board members participated in a Chinese Bridge for American Educators study tour to China. The main goal of the program, which was organized by the University at Buffalo Confucius Institute (UBCI), was to give education leaders the opportunity to learn about the Chinese education system and the country’s history and culture.

The delegation was hosted in Beijing and Xi’an by Capital Normal University, UB’s long-time partner in Beijing. Accommodations, food, transportation and excursions in China were paid by Confucius Institute Headquarters in Beijing.

The itinerary included visits to four K-12 schools, a tour of Northwest University in Xi’an, and excursions to the Forbidden City, Great Wall, Temple of Heaven and Terracotta Warriors.

Denise Dunbar, principal of Sidway Elementary School in Grand Island, said, “It was a great learning experience for me. Experiencing the people, culture and food of China is something I will never forget. I am so appreciative of the opportunity to travel with such an esteemed group of educators and am very grateful to The University of Buffalo and the Confucius Institute for such an amazing opportunity.”

English lesson at Ding Hui Li K-8 School in Beijing

During the school visits, the Buffalo delegation met with school principals, department heads, teachers and students, toured the school facilities and observed classes. The Buffalo educators were impressed by the desire of their Chinese counterparts to globalize the curriculum, establish international connections, and make the learning process more interactive and engaging for students.

Bruce Acker, delegation leader and UBCI associate director, said, “Our delegation had very positive and thought-provoking conversations with the educators we met. We discussed a broad range of topics, including curriculum and assessment, teaching methods, high school and college entrance criteria, school funding and security. We were very impressed by the students, many of whom could communicate remarkably well with our group in English, even at the middle school level.”

The delegation included Jennifer Demert, head of school at Buffalo Academy of the Sacred Heart; Simon Farrell, director of international experiences and library media specialist at Tapestry Charter School; Adrienne Forgette, principal of Nardin Academy high school; Lauree Pless, executive director of the Western New York Educational Service Council; and five representatives of the Grand Island School District: assistant superintendent Karen Cuddy-Miller, principals Denise Dunbar and Michael Lauria, and school board members Ashli Dreher and Donna Tompkins.

Simon Farrell of Tapestry said, “I have come away from this experience with a much deeper understanding of both the Chinese culture and its educational system as well as a strengthened desire to bridge the gap between our two countries.”

Autumn Sunset at the Great Wall (Photo by Simon Farrell, Tapestry Charter School)

Chinese Bridge is part of a global Confucius Institute initiative to give education professionals and students a first-hand introduction to Chinese culture and opportunities for face-to-face interaction with their counterparts in China. In July 2018, the UB Confucius Institute organized a two-week study tour to Beijing and Shanxi Province for students from UB and other SUNY campuses.