A Librarians’-Eye View
May 10, 2014 | Orchards
By Anna G. Joujan
With an enrollment of approximately 280 students and 50 teachers, Kunming International Academy (KIA) is currently celebrating her 20th anniversary. The school’s director is Marina Lytle, a native of Memphis, Tennessee, who has over 24 years of educational experience. KIA is located in Kunming, the “city of eternal spring” and many of the staff members utilizes bikes as their primary mode of transportation. Biking allows for easy enjoyment of street food, noodle shops, dumpling or fruit stands and other ways of enjoying the excellent Yunnan cuisine.
From my slightly separated vantage point as the librarian, I can sometimes observe what others cannot. Kunming International Academy’s newest and most notable additions (from a librarians’-eye view) include:
A Specialized Elementary Science Teacher:
Not only is Dr. Fawn Chitov a brilliant and highly trained scientist in her own right, she also happens to love the children at KIA. And they, in turn, love her. She exudes an aura of enthusiasm as she shares her love of learning with the students.
She came into the library one day to browse for some materials, laden with large shopping bags brimming with fruits. I asked her what the story behind them was, suspecting that they were an intriguing science lesson she had come up with, and she proceeded to give me a fascinating lesson. It turns out that fruits such as pears, apples, and plums are in the “Rose” family, while citrus falls into the “Rue” family. Included in the Rue clan was one bizarrely beautiful, highly fragrant, and pricey fruit she had discovered called the “fingered citron.”
Dr. Chitov is truly an admirably genuine academic, mother, wife, and woman of faith.
A Tutoring Department
The head of this new department—Birgit Lee—has shown a great deal of initiative in her ideas, going beyond the norm as she pursues excellence. She discovered the fact that the library was lacking a significant collection of books—which, because of her help, have now been ordered and are on display on my “new books” shelf.
In a recent staff meeting, Birgit asked for help planning a new program to incorporate music into the English Language Learners (ELL) program, theorizing that if music is beneficial for language acquisition as a whole, it will also enhance the learning experience of our ELL students.
She has also begun a program of teacher interviews in one of her classes, having staff and community members come in to share their life stories as a way of helping the second language learners put practical applications to the vocabulary they learn and also hear the stories of people they know. “I appreciate all the ways people have responded to my ideas!” Birgit explains. “I think it’s great how we can all help each other this way.”
Birgit is also involved in the school music department and recently received an invitation for our orchestra to travel to, and perform in, the Czech Republic.
A New Elementary Principal
If you happen to wander the halls at any given hour of the day, there’s a good chance that you will hear a smiling voice or a cheery laugh from our new elementary principal as he greets a student, jokes with a staff member, or returns a child’s hug. Mr. Frank Wicks possesses a unique blend of educated professionalism and kind approachability. He has stepped into a largely challenging role with an aura of ease, providing both structure and flexibility for us all.
What is particularly intriguing about Frank’s role here at KIA is the fact that he came after retirement. Frank says that he “did not see the word retirement in the Bible” so he gets the privilege of working with another committed, professional group of teachers and staff as well as quality international students. From Oregon to Taiwan to Alaska, and now in China, Frank has served as a principal of elementary, middle, and high school, and served 8 years as an elementary teacher. Following Frank’s 25 year career in education, the staff at KIA now benefits from the experience and commitment of both Frank and Linda-Kay.
Anna G. Joujan was raised in Zambia, Africa, with both Canada and the U.S as passport countries. When the family had to leave the country, they settled in Tennessee. She spent undergrad years in Washington state, and completed graduate studies in Tennessee, before beginning to travel/work in various parts of the world: France, Zambia, and the Caribbean, among others. She joined Oasis, as a Librarian in Central Asia, in 2011. Since 2013 she has been in Kunming, where she is the Librarian. She also enjoys coaching Cross Country and Track, and being involved with dance and music.