From China to Canada to Tooele, Chinese teacher Molly Wu is bringing the best of her experiences to students at Northlake Elementary.
Wu is the new third-grade teacher at the Dual Language Immersion program there.
She graduated from the prestigious Tai Shan High School in Shandong Province. After teaching there for a while, she worked in Canada teaching Chinese culture and language. Now she is in Tooele, and loving it.
“I love the culture here, everyone is so willing to share,” she said. “The principal, my colleagues and others have been amazing.”
Wu arrived from Canada with no place to live.
Program coordinators found her a roommate, a place to live and household items.
“I get to be roommates with the DLI German teacher, Frida Doppertin,” she said. “We have fun together, so it is nice she understands about being a teacher.”
Wu was also given a host family to ease her transition. That fact amazed her.
“These were people who just gave me a key to their house and said ‘come by anytime, and use what you need,’” she said.
Others donated beds, a table and other items.
“Some things were just left at my host family’s house,” Wu said. “This culture is just so willing to share. This is just not done at home.”
Her host family is an older couple and Wu enjoyed Thanksgiving at their home. One of their sons served a Chinese-speaking mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“I love that family is so important here,” she said. “I call my mom and say now ‘I miss you and I love you.’ I have worked away a lot and not had so much time for my parents. Now I want to go back and spend time with them. I have learned a lot here.”
Her parents were poor farmers back in China, growing a type of fruit.
“They never earned lots of money, but what they had they spent on their children’s educations,” she said. “I am grateful for that. And it has really paid off.”
Wu has been teaching at different levels since she received her master’s degree.
She taught in Edmonton, Canada for two years, combining language training with culture activities.
“In Edmonton, there is a Confucius Institute that is highly regarded worldwide. There is a large Chinese population there,” she said.
Mainly adult students would come in the afternoons and at night to learn. It was sort of a Chinese culture support system, she said.
“There was a whole bilingual program and a big art program. People in Canada wanted to know how to combine Chinese culture with their lives.”
The Canadian city has a large bilingual program, with 17 dual-immersion schools involved.
She also arranged a letter exchange program between students in China and Canada.
Wu taught a lot of traditional Chinese arts including culture dancing, tai-chi, knot bracelets, flower dough and shadow puppets.
“Shadow puppets are very popular with kids, it really helps them with language — to get out there and give them a reason to talk,” she said.
She uses shadow puppets in class now and the students love it.
“I love the kids here, they are different than the kids in China. They have more imaginations, they do more creative things. Sometimes they give answers that surprise me, almost like adult answers,” she said. “The children speak beautifully and correctly.”
Such questions are great for class.
“It gives me a chance to think how to phrase an question so they can give an more in-depth answer,” Wu said. “Kids practice thinking more here too.”
Chinese students are prone to be more quiet, follow instructions quickly and raise their hands more in class.
“Here they think, ‘Will you let me do that?’ and if they love the idea, then they will do it. I think kids here have more choices,” she said. “You have smart kids here. I am amazed how time flies.”
But like most teachers, getting to the U.S. was a long process.
“I thought it would be good to teach somewhere else, so I applied to the college board that selects lots of teachers to go to the United States,” she said. “I had taught kindergarten through grade 12 with foreign exchange students. This board also sends Chinese teachers around the world.”
She was accepted into the program and had to wait and see if she was considered qualified for the training section. Then she had to wait and see if her visa to the U.S. was accepted.
“Everything was good and I spent a month and a half in training,” she said.
She enjoys how the management style is so different here.
“Here they focus on being more positive and like having positive consequences,” she said. “That is good to learn and help the students. There are even webinars to help you learn different ways to do things.”
Wu enjoys the quiet of Tooele.
“Almost every day I ride my bike here and I get lots of smiles from those along the streets. I didn’t even think they noticed me,” she related. “One was I was walking instead and someone asked me ‘What happened to your bike?’ They knew I was a teacher and wanted to know what happened.”
Wu has encouraged her roommate and her friends to try Chinese food.
“They said they would try it for a birthday party, but were a little nervous,” she said. “But I cooked and they all loved it!”
Wu was also surprised at the grocery store. She was shopping at Walmart one day and an older lady came over to her.
“She heard me speaking Chinese and came over and asked if I was Chinese and I said yes,” Wu said. “It was nice to meet her. Then one day she drove to my house in Erda and took me home to meet her family. I really enjoyed that weekend. We are family now.”
The new friend even took Wu shopping for specialty food in Salt Lake City.
Is she worried about the weather?
“Edmonton has a lot of snow. Maye I will ride my bike here and walk home, since I don’t have a car,” she said. “If it snows will they cancel school?”