A Lutheran Educator’s Guide to Teaching Abroad

A Lutheran Educator’s Guide to Teaching Abroad

by Jill Zempel (Lutheran Education Association, USA)

Originally published at: http://stf.lea.org/fall2014/GLEnet.html

Jane Klammer

What grade do you teach? How long have you served at Concordia Shanghai?
I teach the Visual Arts. 2014-15 is my 11th year at Concordia Shanghai. In my beginning years, I taught Kindergarten to AP Studio Art, encompassing all the grades. My teaching load involves Grade 5 through the High School Visual Arts. I attended St. Paul’s College, Concordia, Missouri, Concordia University Nebraska, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, Illinois, and Columbia University, New York.

How similar or different is your ministry in Shanghai as compared to in the United States?
My ministry is very similar to what is was in the States. A Christian teacher’s job is to instruct, guide, and nurture her students into the best possible educated people that they can become. My job is also to model Christ for my students.

What unique challenges do you face as a Lutheran educator in China?
It also comes down to worship. There are many Christians in China-from the West and the East. God is blessing our schools in Asia with abundance and resources, but we need more Christian people to come as teachers and students to uphold the mission of our school to share Christ to all.

Are there things that you thought you knew about teaching overseas but had to learn?
Honestly, I knew very little about teaching overseas when I accepted my Call to Hong Kong in 1992. Leaving my home and family was not an easy thing to do, but now with the advancements in communications technology, staying in touch is way easier than in the early years of living overseas. Friendships/Relationships here are like revolving doors. Your colleagues and Christian friends fill the void of being unable to gather your now long-distance family and become valued in your heart. The expectation to be a life-long learner and contribute as much as you can to the school community is a very strong characteristic of teaching outside the United States. Receiving and gaining an excellent education is very important to the communities here.

Have there been unexpected joys you have experienced?
The opportunity to travel, the expansion of my teaching skills, and raising a family overseas have been among my unexpected joys while serving in China. Both my children were born in China. My daughter, Catherine, was born in Hong Kong and my son, Aaron, comes from the far western province called Qinghai. My husband, Joel, and I were blessed to complete our family through adoption while teaching in Shanghai.

We have had the joy of hosting many student teachers and seeing old friends. They often appear at the classroom doorway, because these individuals heard God’s voice to leave the homeland and continue to venture into God’s global mission field.

Since moving to Shanghai, we have enjoyed attending four LEA convocations in the United States. The development of the ALEA (the Asian Lutheran Education Association) has been spiritually supportive as Lutheran educators serving in Asia gather together to celebrate education and ministry.

Are you ever afraid to share your Christian faith?
I have never really been afraid to share my Christian faith with others in small groups, gatherings, and school devotions. In Hong Kong, we were members of Church of All Nations and had made many mission trips to orphanages and villages to help Asian people in need. We have been members of house churches and congregations in Shanghai and have experienced the growth of Christianity here in China.

How would you describe the culture of the school community/classroom at Concordia?
Amazing place. People here genuinely care for each other, openly pray for each other, and lift each other up spiritually everyday. We are blessed daily by God through prayer, resources, and community. The culture of our school community reflects diversity, internationalism, kindness, and comparison. Serving others is a major component of our school.

What practices are used in Shanghai that might be useful to implement in the United States?
Paid Professional Development. Our school has an allotted amount that each teacher can spend each year on professional development. Many people spend it on Master Degree programs, dynamic workshops in their personal fields of interest or expertise, or learning Chinese.

What do you miss about living in the states and how often do you visit?
We visit at least twice a year: Christmas and summer holidays. Our family is very important to us, and we like to escape the intense heat of Shanghai summer. We miss clean air!

Is there anything else that you think would be helpful for Lutheran educators to know about your experience in Shanghai?
My husband and I left the United States in 1992 to accept calls to teach at Hong Kong International School in Hong Kong SAR. In 2004, we accepted calls to teach at Shanghai International School in Shanghai and we delighted in Concordia International School Hanoi opening its doors in 2012. Being a part of the mission field in Asia has been an amazing and God blessed experience.



GLElargeballJoel Zielke

What grade did you teach? How long did you serve at Concordia Shanghai?
I taught in the physical education department for seven years. My first year I taught grades 1-12. As the school grew and more teachers were added, we separated by division. I most recently taught in the high school division. I have a degree in Elementary Education from Concordia University Chicago and a master’s degree in Coaching and Athletic Administration from Concordia University Irvine.

How similar or different was your ministry in Shanghai as compared to the United States?
Many of my students in Shanghai did not come from Christian homes. God provided incredible opportunities to form relationships with them and to share my faith through words, but more importantly my actions.

What unique challenges did you face as a Lutheran educator in China?
The student population is very diverse. It is important that you understand cultural differences to best facilitate student learning.

Have there been unexpected joys you experienced?
I had many opportunities to travel with students. Each September the middle school and high school community travels throughout China for Interim week for service, cultural, and adventure trips. I was blessed to see so many different parts of China through these experiences. My favorite trip was living in a rural village digging trenches and a cistern to bring fresh water to the local village for the first time. The joy and gratitude in their hearts was incredible!

I also was able to travel internationally with students for service trips, sports tournaments, and conferences. These trips took us to Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, the Philippines, and Singapore.

Were you ever afraid to share your Christian faith?
As an expatriate, I was never afraid. The Christian community has really grown. In the early years there were limited opportunities for worship. In the last several years more Christian churches have started across the city.

How would you describe the culture of the school community/classroom at Concordia?
The culture is one of excellence. The faculty and staff are highly devoted to their vocation and providing the absolute best experiences for their students. The student and parent community are also highly motivated and committed to achieving academic success.

What practices are used in Shanghai that might be useful to implement in the United States?
Concordia is blessed with resources, and the administration is highly supportive of teachers discovering the next great thing in education. Whether it is the creation of a new elective class that focuses on real-world issues and problem solving or researching the newest technology to enhance student learning, you are given freedom to research and explore different ways to make your classroom cutting edge.

What did you miss about living in the states and how often would you visit?
For us it was our family. Living overseas has many great advantages, but you also miss out on lot of things; holidays, birthdays, weddings, funerals. We made a big effort to stay connected and came home at Christmas and for our summer holiday.

As you transition back to teaching in the states, what will you miss the most about Shanghai?
The time we were in Shanghai (2007-2014) was one of transformation. Life is so fast-paced, and the development of the city has been incredible. It would often seem that new buildings would appear overnight. We enjoyed getting out in the city and just exploring different neighborhoods. Shanghai is such an international city. It is great to have people from all over the world in one place learning from one another and getting along.

Is there anything else that you think would be helpful for Lutheran educators to know about your experience in Shanghai?
Teaching at Concordia and living in Shanghai was an amazing life-changing experience both personally and professionally. It really opens your eyes to what education should be, how big the world is, and how big God is.

Jill Zempel is editor of ShapingtheFuture. She lives in Milwaukee, where her daughters attend Lutheran schools.

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