American teachers build BYU’s reputation in China

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The Kennedy Center on campus has operated the China Teachers Program (CTP) for the last 25 years, sending American educators and professionals to teach English in Chinese universities for one academic year.

This unique academic service activity is available for adventurous retired or mid-career professionals, under the age of 65, with university degrees. The program screens, trains and places teachers in various Chinese universities across the country.

The CTP was ultimately inspired by President Spencer W. Kimball during the October 1978 conference for regional representatives. He spoke about service to the “uttermost parts of the world.” The CTP was preceded by other BYU initiatives in China that opened the doors for the program to be implemented 12 years later.

In January 1989, an English-language-teaching program proposal for China was submitted to BYU’s then-President Jeffrey R. Holland. The project was also discussed and approved in the meeting of the First Presidency and the Board of Trustees. Elder Dallin H. Oaks encouraged President Holland to implement the project immediately.

“This is a very important project,” Elder Oaks said.

As of last year, 1,600 teachers have taught in more than 100 different universities and have reached approximately 150,000 students through CTP. The teachers in the program have the rare opportunity of teaching at a Chinese university and absorbing the Chinese culture. They also contribute to the education of the students and assist in building a relationship of trust between two great nations. They have had a positive presence in China and retained BYU’s good reputation.

James and Geneil Ballentine taught in China with CTP for two years and later became the deputy directors for the program, a position which they currently hold. They were happy to continue working with the program because of the great experience they had during their time teaching. The Ballentines believe that one of the greatest things the teachers can learn during their time in China is a love of the people they are serving.

“They come back with a love of the students, so they love the Chinese people,” James Ballentine said. “They come to appreciate the great people they are.”

The love seems to go both ways as the students and the teachers build a relationship.

“They [the teachers] love their students beyond anything else. It becomes a pleasure because the students appreciate it so much,” Geneil Ballentine said.

James shared an instance that he feels epitomizes the relationship between the teachers and their students. A past teacher was training a group of new teachers, and the new teachers were asking the past teacher questions.

“What about kids skipping your class?” one new teacher asked.

“Miss my class? They love me too much! They would never miss my class,” the past teacher replied.

Last year, the CTP sent 78 teachers to various Chinese universities. This year it sent 72. Teachers must attend a two-week, 100-hour, TEFL training program at the Kennedy Center prior to leaving for China. During their time in China, the teachers are expected to exemplify high moral values, professionalism and integrity.

Many teachers have come back with a new appreciation and understanding of the Chinese culture. They often want to return to China with CTP, like the Ballentines, and teach for another academic year. It seems to be the people they meet and the relationships they build that really make the experience worthwhile.

“China has great treasures. There are sites to see — the Great Wall, all of those wonderful treasures — but their greatest treasure is their people, and especially their students. They are incredible,” Geneil Ballentine said.

For more information about the Chinese Teachers Program, visit the Kennedy Center on campus or go to its website: http://kennedy.byu.edu/chinateachers.

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