12 faculty members to tour China during spring break


Twelve faculty members will travel to China during spring break, where they will tour and study in order to increase awareness of Chinese culture and history at Harvard-Westlake, Director of Studies Dr. Deborah Dowling said.

The trip was made possible by a Harvard-Westlake family which Head of School Jeanne Huybrechts said will remain anonymous for the time being.

Huybrechts chose the 12 faculty members from a pool of 22 applicants. She picked Dowling, Vice President John Amato, middle school history teachers Stephen Chan, Rosemary Clark, Matthew Cutler, Karen Fukushima, and George Gaskin, middle school English teachers Steven Chae and Claire Pasternack, middle school Librarian Anna Martino, middle school visual arts teacher Katherine Palmer and middle school science teacher Sandra Wolchok.

The group, along with another faculty group from John Thomas Dye School and Dr. Yunxiang Yan, co-director of UCLA’s Center for Chinese Studies, will depart for Beijing on March 27.

The tentative 10-day itinerary has them traveling from Beijing to Kunming, and then to Shanghai. They plan to visit the Great Wall of China and the Temple of Heaven, along with medical, educational and social institutions.

Dowling, who reviewed the 22 faculty applications before giving them to Huybrechts, said that the trip is meant to improve the quality of education at the school.

“We want the purpose of this trip to be to improve and enrich Harvard-Westlake’s curriculum by building in a stronger awareness of China,” Dowling said.

Dowling said that the group would take a short course on Chinese culture and history with Yan, whom she described as “a highly qualified, extremely impressive professor.”

The course will consist of three full-day workshops at UCLA, as well as a number of reading assignments.

“That’s going to make it a much richer experience because they will know so much about China before ever stepping foot on Chinese soil,” Huybrechts said.

Chan, who has consulted with Yan on the plans for the workshop, agreed.

“If you go on a tour you’re exposed to a lot of Chinese culture and society, but this program adds workshops that really inform the participants about the social, political and economic realities of China,” he said. “This will add to the relevance of the things that they see.” 

Wolchok said there is a particular economic reality which interests her.

“Of course, I am interested in seeing the cities and learning about the people of China, but I am also interested in learning how the government has dealt with and will continue to deal with the more recent industrialization of this nation,” she said.

Huybrechts said she gave priority to seventh and eighth grade history teachers because the school is considering changing those courses to incorporate more of a focus on Chinese history and culture. Beyond that, Huybrechts said, she tried to choose teachers from numerous departments.

“The trip goes hand in hand with expanding our Chinese language program,” Dowling said. For the first time this year, the school offers a Chinese course for seventh graders.

“We think that part of educating Harvard-Westlake students is to make sure that they’re in touch with issues in Asia,” Dowling said.

“The U.S. has increasing economic ties with China, and they are really growing in their global impact,” she said. “And if you’re going to become a global citizen, it’s important to be conscious of what’s happening in China and to understand their background and be able to communicate with Chinese people.”