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Mohawk teacher heads to China

BUCKLAND — Mohawk Trail Regional School science teacher Kathleen Stier will spend the last week of her summer in China instructing 20 educators on how to teach western-style Advanced Placement Biology courses to Chinese high school students.

Stier leaves for Harbin, China, Friday and will return on Aug. 23 — just in time for the new school year at Mohawk.

With more Chinese students wanting to come to American colleges and universities, Chinese high school teachers and families are more interested than ever in preparing their students for American academic requirements. This is one of the reasons Mohawk school officials are hoping to attract a few tuition-paying, full-time students from China to spend their senior year at Mohawk.

But Stier’s trip is not part of the Mohawk-China initiative to bring more students here. Besides her teaching at Mohawk for 27 years, Stier is a long-time member of The College Board, a 114-year-old nonprofit organization created to expand access to higher education. Each year, the College Board helps more than 7 million students prepare for college through programs and services in college readiness and college success — including the SAT and the Advanced Placement Program.

Stier has been an “AP reader” for 20 years, which means she reads and grades student placement tests from all over the United States.

This will be Stier’s first trip to China. Although she doesn’t speak Chinese, the native-Chinese teachers she’ll be working with all know English, she said.

Known as “the Ice City,” because of its bitterly cold winters and its beautiful winter ice sculpture festival, Harbin is home to at least 6 million inhabitants in northeast China. Stier said the flight there will take about 20 hours. The group is scheduled to tour several city attractions on Sunday, before the “Teacher Summer Institute” begins Monday morning. Five other American teachers will be giving instruction on Advanced Placement courses in other subjects, to “help China get on board with AP programs, so that their students can be exposed to the same kind of curriculum,” said Stier.

Things that Stier will be teaching include the AP Biology focus on student critical thinking and on the importance of being able to answer essay questions. Traditionally, Chinese education focuses more on rote learning of facts.

She will teach curriculum framework, correlating AP topics with those in found in Chinese textbooks that are already in use. She will also talk about lab work, textbooks for AP biology, “Understanding the Exam, “Mapping the Big Ideas,” and using what is called “the inquiry format,” which helps students strengthen their critical thinking, problem-solving skills.

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