A Waunakee graduate aspiring to become a teacher jumped in headfirst this summer when he agreed to assist with the first ever Elementary Education International Conference in Beijing.
Nick Kliminski, a 2010 graduate of Waunakee High School, is just beginning the education certification program at UW-Whitewater.
When presented with the opportunity to attend the conference in China, he jumped at it.
“My role was to be an assistant intern and help with all difference aspects of the conference,” Kliminski said.
As soon as the spring semester ended, he went to China where he worked for a month before teaching professionals from the United States arrived.
Four U.S. schools partnered with Chinese schools for the conference. Two to three teachers along with one or two administrators from schools attended. Kennedy Elementary in Janesville was among the participating schools, as were schools from South Carolina, Indiana and California.
Kliminski described the work as planning lessons and presentations, classroom set up and communication on both sides of the globe.
“This was my first experience teaching in the classroom,” he said. “I was doing more than teaching – I was working with professionals on every end of the spectrum.”
In addition to preparing vocabulary lessons, he helped prepare students “on what it is like to learn from an American,” Kliminski said.
The students used social media to meet their teachers beforehand.
Asked what differences he discovered between education in the United States and China, Kliminski noted that at the elementary level, the Chinese educational system is more disciplined.
In China, educators teach one subject at a time, whereas U.S. teachers integrate a number of subjects and include arts, games and activities in the lesson plans.
“Kids actually enjoyed the lessons the U.S. teachers brought over and the activities,” Kliminski said. “They’d never been taught in that style.”
But despite the differences in language and culture, what happens in the classroom is no different.
“Kids in China are the same as kids here. They really enjoy everything they do. It’s a great environment to be working in,” Kliminski said.
The conference fostered collaboration among teaching professionals from very different cultures, Kliminski said. And as the world grows smaller, that colloboration is important.
“A lot of people, when they think of globalization, they think of business and politics but they don’t think of it as a social entity based around people,” he said.
The groundwork is being laid now for future conferences to not only introduce elementary school students to the global world, but to bring professionals together to find the best practices, Kliminski said.
Kliminski stayed on after the conference to prepare 28 students from Zhongguancun No. 3 Primary School to come to the United States for a summer International Academy hosted by the Janesville School District.
Kliminski originally had set out to learn Mandarin Chinese. When he entered UW-Whitewater, he met Dr. Guoli Liang, a professor in the College of Education who suggested he attend the conference.
Kliminski seized the opportunity, and said the journey “would forever shape my professional leadership development.”
Kliminski is entering his fourth year of college, and is an elementary education major. He plans to student teach next spring.
“My goal is to become a teacher and even aspire to go father into education, to become of the leader of a conference such as this,” he said.