At Participate Learning, our teachers are ambassadors of their heritages and cultures. They travel from all corners of the world to take part in meaningful exchanges in U.S. classrooms. The impact they have on their students in the states strengthens student outcomes and promotes cultural understanding by helping them to develop into empathetic, problem-solving global leaders.
We believe that our ambassador teachers are among the very best educators in the world, and that they leave a long-lasting impact on their students, schools, and communities in the United States; Yuning Pan is a third-year ambassador teacher who is originally from Guangdong Province, China. She is currently teaching Mandarin in 6th, 7th, and 8th grades at Marvin Ridge Middle School in Union County, North Carolina. Read on to learn more about Yuning’s story.
When did you start learning a second language, and what kept you motivated to learn?
I started to learn English when I was in elementary school. I love speaking English, and it seemed, at the beginning of my learning journey, that it was something I was good at. My passion and talent for learning English easily and efficiently motivated me to learn more. Beyond that, I have a heart to know more about the global world, and I want to be able to travel to different places to learn about other cultures.
What’s one thing you wish people knew about your home country?
China is a wonderful country for people to explore beautiful sceneries and eat delicious food. Ancient China is also recognized as one of the four great ancient civilizations of the world, so there is a lot of history to uncover.
What’s the most interesting place you have traveled to and why?
The most interesting place in China that I have traveled to is Beijing, which is the capital. It has amazing attractions like the Imperial Palace, the Forbidden City, Beihai Park, the Great Wall of China, the Temple of Heaven, the Summer Palace, and the Beijing Capital Museum. The city has a combination of modern China and Chinese civilization, and there is a lot you can check off on your travel bucket list.
What’s your favorite holiday in your country, and how do you celebrate it?
My favorite holiday in China is the Chinese Lunar New Year, or Spring Festival, which lasts for fifteen days. Loved ones come together and celebrate the beginning of another year. Before New Year’s Eve, we will clean the house thoroughly and do New Year shopping. On New Year’s Eve, we will hang up spring couplets and have a reunion dinner. Adults give red envelopes to children with money for good luck.
Everyone stays up late on New Year’s Eve, which is similar to the countdown in Western culture. On New Year’s Day, people will set off fireworks and offer sacrifices to ancestors. After the first day, various regions have different activities such as lion dancing, concerts, and puppet shows. On the fifteenth day, we celebrate the Lantern Festival, where people eat sweet dumplings and watch lanterns.
What are some ways you teach students in your class about your culture? What do they love hearing about most?
I love to teach students about Chinese holidays and customs. My students love to compare Chinese holidays with American holidays and discover the similarities and differences. They also enjoy making Chinese artwork like mooncakes with play dough.
What inspired you to become a teacher?
An American philosopher, Allan Bloom, once said, “Education is the movement from darkness to light.” As human society develops, the whole world attaches a great importance to education. I am grateful for the influential teachers in my life when I was a student, so I chose to work as a teacher myself after I finished university.
How has being a cultural exchange ambassador changed the way you teach?
Being a cultural exchange ambassador has given me the chance to share my own country’s culture, while at the same time, immersing myself in the local culture. When sharing my culture with students, I get to know what interests them about another country, and I can then adapt my teaching in a way that is engaging for them. It is wonderful to get to know more about local teachers, too, and exchange teaching practices with them. My teaching style and philosophy around education are greatly influenced by it.
Why do you think global education is important in today’s society?
Global education is important in today’s society because we are living in a globalized world. We need people who have the knowledge and skills to work with people from different cultures and nations and face global challenges, so that our earth is a better place to live.
What advice would you give for a new ambassador teacher?
My two pieces of advice would be to celebrate differences and do the right thing—create an environment for students to understand and celebrate different cultures and teach them the right thing to do in the globalized world.
Thanks to ambassador teachers like Yuning, students have the resources, knowledge, and perspectives needed to be active global leaders in their local communities and make a positive impact on the world around them. For more information on how you, too, can be an ambassador of your culture and change students’ lives for the better, check out our webpage.