By Donna Kelly, Chinese Teacher, Patrick Henry HS
 
As a Chinese language teacher at Patrick Henry High School, I have the privilege to work in a very diverse school. Culture is alive at Patrick Henry High, especially at this time for many of my Hmong students as they celebrate Hmong New Year wearing the traditional dress of their Hmong heritage. Many of my students are Hmong, and during my own past travels in Yunnan, southern China I have seen how similar the traditional dress of some of the minority populations mirror the clothing that I see my students wearing during times of celebration or dance performances. These particular students share a history with China. All of my students are interested in Chinese culture, and I, being a non-native Chinese language teacher, strive to make every effort to support their interest in Chinese culture, by trying to make contact with authentic Chinese art, music, dance and theater performance if possible.

By Donna Kelly, Chinese Teacher, Patrick Henry HS
 
As a Chinese language teacher at Patrick Henry High School, I have the privilege to work in a very diverse school. Culture is alive at Patrick Henry High, especially at this time for many of my Hmong students as they celebrate Hmong New Year wearing the traditional dress of their Hmong heritage. Many of my students are Hmong, and during my own past travels in Yunnan, southern China I have seen how similar the traditional dress of some of the minority populations mirror the clothing that I see my students wearing during times of celebration or dance performances. These particular students share a history with China. All of my students are interested in Chinese culture, and I, being a non-native Chinese language teacher, strive to make every effort to support their interest in Chinese culture, by trying to make contact with authentic Chinese art, music, dance and theater performance if possible. 
  
web_phhscaligraphyStudents watch calligraphy team
 
Pearl Bergad and the Chinese Heritage Foundation have supported my students’ deep seeded interest by making several appearances at my school to share their master skills in calligraphy with my students. I will never forget how students stood in awe of the calligraphy team as they made their way across our crowded lunchroom, their presence commanded respect and inspiration. Patrick Henry was also invited to participate last year in the A Passage to China event at the Mall of America. It was a spectacular and highly successful activity in which my students were able to share their knowledge of Chinese language and culture with others. Again, Pearl Bergad and the other Chinese Heritage Foundation members continue to guide my students through their Chinese language journey. 
 
Thommy Tran, a PHHS students (far right) gets to act on stage

 web_phhstran
 

(photo of PHHS students; caption:  Two PHHS students, Tou Meng Yeng (3rd from right) and Wong Her (2nd from right) appear on stage for opera lessons) 

web_phhsstudents1
 
With Pearl’s help, a number of my students were able to attend the Kunqu Opera recently held at the Ted Mann Concert Hall. They were even invited to come on stage and participate in some Kunqu Opera performance lessons. One of  my students, Thommy Tran did an excellent rendition of the old man on the boat character. Thommy is an excellent gymnast and break dancer, he had no trouble in pantomiming the movement of the oars cutting through the water, in fact Thommy glided across the stage as if he were moving across the water. Student Wong Her, another talented dancer in my class participated as well as Tou Meng Yang.

A few of the opera performers that the students got to seeweb_phhsperformers
 
My students are very talented as well as very dedicated to learning the Chinese language. As my students watched the show, I could see them trying to read as many Chinese characters as they could that were projected above the Kunqu Opera performance. They continue to talk about their experience and they are even recreating some of the fighting and pantomimic movement of some of the actors they saw in my own class. They especially loved the end piece where the two young men were fighting in the dark.
 
The Kunqu Opera is particularly interesting to me as I spent a lot of time with various Opera people in China while I was a Chinese language student and later as a photographer; I took a great many photos of Chinese Opera performance. I also learned a great deal from the very talented, and now retired, Ethnomusicologist, Professor Alan Kagan, whom I saw at the Kunqu Opera. He oversaw my paper on the Monkey King when I attended the University of Minnesota for my B.A. This was a happy reunion for us as we both share a love of the Chinese Opera.
 
Again I am also so thankful for the help from Pearl, the Chinese Heritage Foundation and my teacher, Margaret Wong for inspiring my own love of the Chinese language. Having the support of the Chinese community is so crucial in making it possible for me to help my students understand Chinese language and culture. My students love to experience as well as learn about Chinese language and culture, it was an amazing opportunity that was made possible by Pearl Bergad.

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