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Bringing BGSU to China

Online program helps fulfill Yaqi Li’s dream of teaching

Bringing BGSU to China

By Kathleen Lawry

As a young girl in Zheng Zhou, China, Yaqi Li would spend her time “playing” school. She would take on the role of teacher while her friends acted as students. Li would read stories to her “students,” then ask them what they learned from the story.

Li knew she would grow up to be a teacher, she just didn’t realize her focus would be English as a second language. She didn’t always enjoy the English language; in fact, as a high school student, Li hated English. Unhappy with the pressure to learn the grammar of English for a test, but not its application and how to truly communicate, Li was inspired to change the way English is taught to Chinese students.

“To be a teacher is my dream, but English is very important because I feel it’s become the world’s language; it’s a bridge to communicate,” said Li, adding that she thinks English “sounds pretty.”

She initially pursued a graduate program in Oklahoma that offered only a face-to-face option, which was not an ideal match for Li, who was hoping to continue her studies back home. It was then that a former professor of hers, who was American, recommended Bowling Green State University for its quality in preparing educators as well as its online offerings.

BGSU proved to be a perfect fit, so Li transferred in February 2012, spending three months at the Language Learning Center to set herself up for success.

“I wanted to fix my writing skills, especially with all the papers I would be doing for the online courses,” she said.

In April 2012, she took her first course in the program on the Bowling Green campus before returning to China, where she taught a class of 50 students. Between work and her online program, she only had time to teach and study, she admitted.

Li put her polished writing skills to good use with the program’s discussion boards, which she found extremely helpful. Li, though, wasn’t the only one to benefit from the process.

“Yaqi’s contributions to the discussion board were invaluable because she enlightened many of us about the schooling in China,” said Sharon Schuett, a faculty member in the School of Teaching and Learning.

“Her willingness to make sure her work was top-notch and determination to succeed in the program were quite evident. An added bonus was her ability to write English well,” Schuett said.

Test scores are the central focus in China, and Li doesn’t see that changing anytime soon, but still hopes to change perceptions of the English language by infusing some of her own style where possible.

“If I can, I try to teach more applied English, even if it’s only for five, 10 or 15 minutes. I try to teach them the American way of critical thinking because I think that’s so important in America. I also try to teach them some American slang,” said Li.

Li is bringing a few other important lessons back to her own classroom. “One of the most important things I’ve learned is to be confident and understand the needs of students,” she said. “You need to love the students. A lot of courses taught me to love, to understand and to respect.”

Although she’s enjoyed working with her young students, Li plans to pursue a career teaching at the university level. She returned to Bowling Green with her mother to participate in the commencement ceremonies, but is already back home studying for the test to qualify her to teach at a university in Zheng Zhou.