My friend Rachel Cheng–teacher of the Chinese language programs at both schools–introduced me to Brandi Bane and Tonya Koppin: The chairs of the Career Day and language programs at each school respectively. I asked both of them why they started these programs. Brandi explains that where she taught previously, the programs had initially been targeted to upper-level language students. We soon realized, “It would be more beneficial to present to novice learners to help inspire them to continue with language and to see the value in learning language and culture.” She brought the program to Metea where “…we then came up with a list of questions [for students to ask] and we started literally calling any local business we could think of that would have multilingual professionals.” “It was a huge success.”
“I believe we do a really good job at inspiring students and at opening their minds to what their future holds,” said Bane. “I see this in the reactions of students that especially have a negative attitude at the idea of having to give up part of their lunch period to participate…Afterwards they always seem to have at least one guest that they really connected with.” “It’s obvious in the energy in the room during the fair as well as the feedback we receive from guests and students alike.”
“We see it as a great supplement to the level-3 curriculum in all of Neuqua Valley World Languages. Our department’s goal is always ‘connecting people through language’. This is the perfect opportunity,” remarks Tonya Koppin. Serving dual purposes of a language fair and career day, she feels that it is beneficial when students “…use the language in an unrehearsed, real-life interpersonal situation.” It “…exposes students to a real-life professional exchange and shows students how enriching, valuable, and marketable multilingualism is post-high school.”
For my part, I can attest that it is often an eye-opening experience for many of the students when they taste some good tea. Offering a taste is an easy way to break the ice but when a student who initially says “I don’t like tea” later proclaims that “hey, this is pretty good,” it is like one little piece of their mind opening: A kind of new connection. Of course we tea people have always known that the language of tea is universal and brings people together from all walks of life and languages. So whether you say tea, tay, te, cha, chai, chia, or even herbata; the language of the leaf is understood with a simple slurp and a smile.
Dan Robertson is the founder and owner of The Tea House and World Tea Tours in Naperville, Illinois. He was born in New Haven, CT, raised primarily in the Midwest, and is a graduate of the College of Wooster, Ohio. He is a 25-year practitioner and instructor of the martial art and health exercise Tai Ji Quan. ...See Dan Robertson's Full Bio and List of Articles