David Key, an assistant professor at Pellissippi State Community College, understands the importance of a global education, and he goes to great lengths to bring an international perspective to his students.
“As a student, learning about different cultures and learning a foreign language enhances your global outlook,” said Key. “It gives you an edge, whether you are going on to a four-year school or going straight from Pellissippi State to the job market. That background makes you more attractive to potential employers.”
It’s no surprise then that when Key was nominated by Allen Edwards, Pellissippi State president, to represent the college in the 2010 Winter Chinese Bridge program, he jumped at the opportunity. The annual program provides the opportunity for classroom educators and other school leaders to travel to China to collect knowledge about the country’s culture, society and educational system.
The Winter Chinese Bridge program is sponsored by the Confucius Institute. Under the leadership of the Chinese Ministry of Education, the organization is a non-governmental public institution that provides Chinese teaching resources and services for all countries. It brings instruction in the Chinese language to learners and, simultaneously, introduces them to the culture of the country.
Confucius Institutes are established by the China National Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language, also known as Hanban, headquartered in Beijing. Hanban is the hub for Confucius Institutes throughout the world.
Key traveled to the Winter Chinese Bridge program with the Confucius Institute at the University of Memphis as part of a 25-member delegation representing administrators from across Tennessee. Pellissippi State’s 2010 Outstanding Full-time Faculty recipient, Key was the only representative from a Tennessee college or university to take part in the weeklong Winter Chinese Bridge. Others participating were from primary and secondary schools across the state.
As part of the delegation, he met with Chinese educators and students, visiting children in primary schools as well as young adults at Hubei University. He and the other U.S. educators exchanged best practices with their counterparts in China.
“We discussed the positives and negatives of the Chinese and the American educational systems,” said Key. “We watched the Chinese teachers in their classrooms, who left us with very positive impressions.
“It was a chance for us to learn about culture, the arts and education firsthand. I especially enjoyed getting to know the other Tennessee educators and share ideas about expanding international education opportunities for students here, from the primary grades all the way through higher education.”
Beyond the educational institutions, the delegation visited Hubei province in central China, the Great Wall of China, Tiananmen Square and Wuhan, the most populous city in central China and a major transportation hub.
Key, who has taught at Pellissippi State for 10 years, is already sharing with his students what he learned from the visit to China. He also plans to increase his role in encouraging them to study abroad.
Through the Tennessee Consortium for International Studies, the college is offering students study abroad opportunities in 15 countries, including China, this year. Located at Pellissippi State, TnCIS strives to increase international education and cultural understanding in higher education throughout Tennessee.
“I’m also excited about our new Confucius Classroom,” said Key. “That, along with TnCIS, allows Pellissippi State to be a forerunner in international education.”
The Confucius Classroom at Pellissippi State began this month, after the college received a prestigious grant from the Confucius Institute at the University of Memphis. Pellissippi State is the only community college in Tennessee to receive the grant.
The grant provides general financial support for start-up costs of a special classroom. It supplies computer hardware and software for Chinese language instruction, as well as 1,000 books on Chinese language, art and history for the college’s library. The grant also provides funding for a professor from China to teach language and culture classes.
“Opportunities like the Winter Chinese Bridge and the Confucius Classroom,” said Key, “allow us to expand the educational experiences of our students. With study abroad, language classes and courses on culture, there is so much that students can use to their advantage.”
For additional information on the Confucius Classroom, visit www.pstcc.edu or call (865) 694-6400.