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Mark Simonson

December 17, 2012

Chinese teacher learned American education methods in Oneonta


The class invited Yi-Yun to a dinner planned by the sixth grade at the school that night. She took up her teaching duties Friday. While in Oneonta, she resided at the Rosenheim residence on Union Street.

Yi-Yun spoke highly of her sixth-grade students, explaining that here the children do more work than in China, where the teacher does a great deal more than the students.

According to The Oneonta Star, Yi-Yun was a graduate of National Peking University in 1938, and had been teaching in China since that time. During World War II, she had been teaching at National Southwestern Associated University in Kunming, in interior China.

Yi-Yun said that classes had to be started in the early morning so they could be completed before bombing raids began. Several buildings of the university, to which three major educational institutions on the coast had moved shortly after the outbreak of the war, were destroyed by bombs dropped by the Japanese.

Isabella Yi-Yun came to the U.S. on a one-year leave of absence to teach at Bugbee and learn American methods of teaching to take back to her country. She said she came from a cultivated family, as her grandfather was the first Chinese student to study abroad, getting his education at a school in England around 1875. When he returned to China, he translated Western books and culture into Chinese.

It was hardly a quiet summer recess in 1948 for Yi-Yun, as she was selected by the American Association of University Women as one of two representatives to their International Seminar in July at the University of Maryland. She also visited teacher training institutions and public schools in New York and Chicago.

The results of this experiment will hopefully be learned in time, perhaps from former students, as searches in archives at SUNY Oneonta and newspaper accounts have been so far unfruitful.

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Mark Simonson

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