The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports

Mark Simonson

December 17, 2012

Chinese teacher learned American education methods in Oneonta

An experiment of “East meets West” began for sixth-grade students at the Percy I. Bugbee School in the autumn of 1947. It was early October, and the students were anxiously awaiting the arrival of their new teacher — from China.

Bugbee School Principal Willis P. Porter had become acquainted with Yen Yi-Yun while he was a sergeant in the U.S. Army, stationed in China during World War II. Through his efforts, Yi-Yun, who also was known as Isabella, was brought here to teach. The experiment was the first of its kind at a New York state teachers college. Bugbee was then a training school for the Oneonta State Teachers College, known today as the State University College at Oneonta.

Ever since the students were notified of Yi-Yun’s appointment as their teacher, members of the sixth grade had been planning for her arrival. Among the gifts they prepared was a diary of daily events in the classroom since the school opened in September. They kept a close watch on her travels, through correspondence.

This was Yi-Yun’s first visit to the United States. It wasn’t an easy or quick trip in getting here, as she boarded a ship Sept. 13. A typhoon off the coast of Japan caused a considerable delay. She arrived in San Francisco and took a train eastbound.

Finally, Wednesday, Nov. 5, about 30 sixth-grade students waited in the dampness of the D&H Railroad Station, today’s Stella Luna Ristorante on Market Street, for the Binghamton-Albany bound passenger train.

As described by The Binghamton Press, “A small woman in a blue coat, carrying a blue muff-purse, was escorted from the train by Willis P. Porter.”

“Bruce Salisbury, red-headed sixth grader who towered over the little Chinese teacher, gave the official welcome and introduced each of his classmates, individually.”

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Mark Simonson

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