Chester Ronning welcomes new teacher
Renmin Primary School in Chongqing, China, and Chester Ronning School, in Camrose, have begun to expand their twinning relationship.
Renmin Primary School English instructor Rong Qin (also known as CiCi) will be spending the next year at Chester Ronning and a few other schools throughout Battle River School Division teaching students about Chinese culture, language, music and art. She will also help Chester Ronning School to communicate and share with the staff and students at her school in China.
She arrived in Camrose March 9.
"I am very pleased to be here," said CiCi.
"I'm looking forward to an exciting year."
The Renmin Primary School and Chester Ronning School twinning agreement was formed out of the two schools' association with the latter's namesake, a well-known Canadian ambassador and former Camrose Lutheran College president, who was born in China and lived in Chongqing in the 1940s. The relationship grew when Battle River School Division superintendent Dr. Larry Payne went to China in 2009, where he met with Chester Ronning's adopted grandson, Peter Liao.
"Peter, who is of course very interested in the Chester Ronning story, connected him to Renmin Primary School, which is CiCi's school," said Chester Ronning principal Dan Cole.
Hanban, the educational wing of the Chinese government, is paying for CiCi's teaching expenses in honour of Chester Ronning and the twinning relationship, while Battle River School Division is paying her expenses while she is living with her host, Rhonda Anderson and her family.
CiCi spent much time and effort decorating her classroom at Chester Ronning with pictures of China, as well as various facts and artwork she brought from her students back in Chongqing. She speaks fluent English, so is able to communicate well with her pupils.
"Her English is so good," said Anderson. "She's been asked several times where she learned to speak English so well."
CiCi learned English in the University in Chongqing and since arriving in Camrose has acquired a few new phrases and sentences.
"I am learning gradually and I know I will learn more the longer I am here," she said.
CiCi's class sizes at Chester Ronning are smaller than they are at Renmin Primary School, which has a total student/teacher population of more than 5,000.
"We have one teacher for every 45 students and different teachers for every subject," she said.
Renmin Primary School's day starts at 8:30 a.m. and ends at 4:30 p.m. After teachers and students eat lunch together, they all settle down for a nap for one hour. Students receive a two-month break in the summer, the same as here, as well as a one-month break to celebrate the Chinese New Year in January-February.
"Back home some students are busy," said CiCi. "They will learn a lot of subjects and they need to practice."
Based on everything she has seen so far, CiCi feels the students at Chester Ronning School are very happy.
"I think they have more time to do what they enjoy doing," she said.
CiCi doesn't mind the cold winter temperatures or the snow, and has enjoyed getting out for walks with new friends and has attended some hockey games that prior to arriving in Canada she had only seen on T.V.
"It is colder than it is in Chongqing, where the lowest temperature in the winter is about one or two degrees," she said. "If you want to see the snow, you have to go to the mountains."
Summer temperatures in Chongqing can rise to plus 43.
"She told me that when the temperatures get that high the students stay at home." said Anderson. "It's the opposite of what we have here, when snow days force the cancellation of school."
"We have a name for our city," said CiCi. "It is called Hot City of China."
Another thing for which Chongqing is known is its spicy foods.
"We have a dish called hot pot that everyone likes," said CiCi.
One of the misconceptions about China that many Canadians have, said CiCi, is that Chinese citizens are always riding bikes.
"It used to be that way but then it changed to motorcycles. Today most of the people drive cars."
While she has already made three trips to Tim Hortons (another piece of Canadiana), CiCi was disappointed a couple of Sundays ago when she headed downtown to do some shopping to find all the stores closed and the streets basically deserted.
"In Chongqing we have a population of 30 million people and the shops are always open," said CiCi. "In fact it is on the weekends that most of the people will go outside in my city."
Cole said that Renmin Primary School in Chongqing is one of the top schools in China and has a strong reputation for excellence.
"A lot of the parents want to send their children there", CiCi explained.
Chester Ronning School is honoured and privileged to have CiCi as part of its family for the next year.
“She has already made a big first impression on the staff and students," said Cole.