The new teacher “ambassadors” of Glen Rock

by Michael Taromina, Staff Writer

Glen Rock teachers, Chris Kelly, Caitlin Gallagher, Keri Holmgren, Michelle Kostka, and Lucy Dolin serve as Ambassadors for Glen Rock Public Schools this past summer. They traveled to different cities in China to teach kids the English language. 


Around Memorial Day weekend of 2019, Dr. Brent Charleston, the superintendent of Glen Rock, sent out an email requesting teachers of all public schools in Glen Rock to go to China over the summer and teach Chinese speaking kids, English.


Only a few said yes, including Glen Rock Middle School Special Education teacher, Caitlin Gallagher.


Gallagher was one of the few teachers that went on the China trip but definitely made it clear that it was an experience she will never forget. 


Gallagher left John F. Kennedy International Airport on July 3, 2019 and traveled to Xiang, China with Chris Kelly and Lucy Dolin. While in residence, her daily routine included getting up and eating breakfast at her hotel with her associates. Then a shuttle would take the three teacher to a Xiang experimental school and class would start at 9:00 AM. 


The teachers would teach a certain group of students who knew little English. At the beginning of the program, Gallagher would introduce English to the kids using easy memorization tactics and tricks so they wouldn’t struggle.


Gallagher said “I brought over a bunch of picture books. And so that way, they could read it to each other, just practice being familiar with the words a little bit with the pronunciation, but not getting too nitpicky with that. And making sure that they could number one, read it out loud to each other, but then also be able to explain to each other in English or Chinese, what the story was about.”.


Because the language of Chinese is very nascent vocal language, its very hard to communicate with those who cannot speak. Gallagher would tell the kids that mistakes are part of the learning process, and over time, it began to click with them.


Studies show, a person is more likely to learn a language and excel with it vocally if the person who teaches the language is fluent and from that country. Gallagher truly saw this with her kids, since they were excelling at a very fast speed.


Gallagher said “What we hoped for, and I think we did get a little bit this would be all the teachers were really hoping that they get a good and valuable experience. And then also a positive experience when thinking about America, the education system. And, of course, the American people .We hope that it just allowed those branches and connections between different groups of people.”.


At the end of the three week program, Gallagher, and the rest of the teachers were all very proud at their kids for made immense strides since day one, and are now speaking simple sentences and maintaining small conversations in English.


“As a person who was fortunate enough to even go on this trip, I was even more fortunate to see the kids actually excelling in this language at a better pace then I thought they were” Gallagher said, “They were brilliant”.


Although the kids had trouble learning to write correctly in English, they’re reading and compression was superb.


Gallagher, and the other teachers who went to China made it clear that it was an experience they will never forget and feel blessed to have participated in watching young foreign kids grow into beautiful and rich English speakers while having fun at the same time.