Program will send area teacher to China
The Arizona Republic
Jun. 16, 2006

Sherry Anne Rubiano

Harriet Hickman received a surprise in the mail three months ago: an invitation to participate in a two-week professional and cultural exchange program in China for middle school educators.

Hickman said she has always wanted to visit China, and it sounded like a great learning experience.

So she signed up. "We'll get to not only see the country and the culture, but we'll get to see what we're doing in other schools," Hickman said.

Hickman, a language arts teacher at Desert Sky Middle School in Glendale, will travel to China in October with a group of other U.S. delegates.

They plan to tour Beijing, Guilin and Shanghai, and discuss issues facing middle schools today.

The program is sponsored by the People to People Ambassadors Program. Based in Spokane, Wash., it was established by former President Dwight D.
Eisenhower, and is offered for a variety of professions, from business to law.

The purpose of this particular trip is to educate teachers about learning practices, including hands-on science activities and how to make standards-based instruction engaging.

Hickman, 54, said she's excited because she doesn't know who else is going, and the trip will also be a good way to connect with other educators.

"That's my goal: to bring back and to share, and just improve what I'm doing, which would improve the students, improve the staff," Hickman said.
"This is just a sweet opportunity."

While in China, she also plans to team up with another middle school teacher and set up a pen pal program for her students.

October is four months away, and Hickman is already busy preparing for the trip.

The program requires participants to fund their trip, which costs more than $5,000. Hickman is currently looking for sponsors to help her raise money.

To learn the language, she bought some CDs. She is also familiarizing herself with the culture's etiquette. She read in a handbook on Chinese customs that guests give gifts to their hosts, so she is searching for gift ideas.

She also is preparing presentations on two topics - reading and writing strategies and flexible scheduling - that the delegation will discuss.

This trip fulfills a longtime goal for Hickman.

Hickman has taught language arts at Desert Sky Middle School since the school opened more than 20 years ago. Some years ago, she planned to teach English to students in China, but her plans fell through.

Then she received the letter in the mail and decided this was her chance.

"I hadn't planned on it at all," she said. "It just kind of happened."