We are family: Benz establishes sister school in China

We are family: Benz establishes sister school in China

Principle Joan Benz and Xi’an No. 1 MIddle School’s Principle exchange flags to promote a sense of unity at the Sister School program official ceremony.

By Elizabeth Campbell, Editor-in-Chief

Principal Joan Benz established a Sister City Partnership and an exchange program with China’s Xi’an No. 1 Middle School on Sept. 18 as part of MCPS’s County Executive Isaiah Leggett’s China Trade, Education and Cultural Mission Trip.

The trip included over 80 MCPS officials, including Superintendent Joshua Starr, who toured multiple Chinese schools and historical sites.

Despite it being called a middle school, the Chinese students are the same age as CHS students. The program will include a student-teacher exchange program, a possible focus on a scientific research project and the encouragement of Internet communication between students.

“We’re hopefully going to start this spring when Churchill students could go to Xi’an,” Benz said. “When students go to Xi’an, they would either be staying in the school dormitories or with those families, and they would be going to school with those families, so it would be a full immersion program in all facets, not just education.”

Benz would first consider students currently enrolled in Chinese classes for the exchange program.

According to Chinese teacher Yih Lee, who will most likely go with the students to China in the spring, the program is an excellent learning opportunity, and her students are very excited.

“Students will get to use their language outside of the classroom, which is the greatest thing they can do when they are learning a language,” Lee said. “We see it in the book, but now we get to see what they actually do every day and see the language and culture in action.”

More than just enriching the Chinese curriculum, Benz plans to expand the Chinese courses CHS offers and encourage all CHS feeder schools to start Chinese programs.

“I do want to talk with some of the other elementary school principals about starting Chinese, and I want to increase excitement about China,” Benz said. “Right now, we don’t offer level one or two, and if you haven’t taken it at middle school, you can’t start it, and that’s too bad. I think students should have the opportunity to learn the language.”

In addition to supplementing the Chinese program, Benz hopes to incorporate all aspects of the student experience that make up CHS including the athletic teams, actors, and musicians.

“We’ve talked about athletic teams doing some sort of exhibition soccer games or having instrumental kids come here or there, or putting on things such as mini plays or doing some performances together or instrumental concerts,” Benz said.

Benz also hopes that Xi’an students will be able to visit CHS in the fall to experience American school traditions such as homecoming.

Senior Jennifer Holstein, who spent her junior year at a Chinese high school for an exchange program, sees this new CHS program as a great opportunity for other students to immerse themselves in the culture and promote mutual understanding.

“I think that Dr. Benz setting up an immersion program at Churchill would be an incredible opportunity for our student body to develop a new perspective of the people in the world around us,” Holstein said.

There is currently no timeline for how long the program will run, but Benz hopes to keep the program going for as long as possible.

“I want to keep the program up forever,” Benz said. “I feel that Chinese is the language of the future.”