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 (www.theteahouse.com) and World Tea Tours (www.WorldTeaTours.com) 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. Before venturing into the world of tea, in 1985, Dan established FRAMEWORK Video & Sound, a video production company specializing in documentary and educational programming. Although he had traveled to the Orient previously, it was his career as a filmmaker that took him to China in 1994 and again in 1995 to produce a documentary on tea. With two years of preparatory work, he traveled extensively across China for two months, filming tea gardens, factories, teahouses, hospitals, universities, museums, and historical sites, interviewing tea experts in all areas. As an unexpected result, in 1995, he began his own tea business, drawing upon the resources and knowledge he had developed during his travels. Since then, he returns to China nearly every year to meet with suppliers, discover new teas, study, or research. Since 1996, he has organized and led the acclaimed China Tea Tour, during which tea lovers from around the world get first-hand experience in tea making, history, culture, and business. Expanding beyond the Far East, he launched World Tea Tours in 2007, offering tours to tea producing and cultural areas around the globe. As an importer, wholesaler, blender, and purveyor of premium teas and accessories, he is involved with many aspects of the tea industry. He is a regular contributor to various tea trade periodicals, web blogs, and tea news services. Known for his informal and engaging style, Dan shares his passion for tea, lecturing around the world for businesses and educational and private groups, most recently presenting at the India Tea Forum in October of 2010. An authority on tea culture, history, production and trade, Dan conducts professional tea-tasting classes and instructs courses in the Chinese tea ceremony. His DVD - The Art of Chinese Tea – The Tea Ceremony - is a demonstration and tutorial on the gongfu style of tea making.