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    Brenda Hackbarth: From a Farm to the Capital


    27 Oct, 2017

    10 : 00

    • In this week’s Teacher Profile, we highlight Brenda Hackbarth, K2 teacher in the Yew Chung International School of Beijing’s Early Childhood Education (ECE) Learning Community.  Originally from Minnesota in the United States, Brenda shares the story of what inspired her to leave behind their family farm and move around the world.  She also recounts the tears shed during her family’s first night in Beijing, as well as her memory of a young boy’s heartfelt goodbye.

      First Night in Beijing

      In the US, I had been working with ESL families, all of whom had come from another country and had stories to tell about the struggles and challenges of moving to a new culture.  I really felt like I could relate to my students on many levels, such as being married and having children, but I couldn’t relate to them on this issue.  I kept wondering to myself what it would be like to live in another country, without knowing the language or the culture.  

      It continued bothering me to the point that I decided to try the experience for myself.  So, I got my master’s degree and decided to move.  The move was in many ways like taking a professional development course.

      I thought we’d never leave Minnesota, actually.  My husband is a homebody, and we had a family farm where I thought we’d grow live forever.  But when I told him that I wanted to do this, he said, ‘If you want to go and experience this, I want to do it with you.’

      When we finally arrived in Beijing, the first night wasn’t easy.  We were tired and hot (our air-conditioner hadn’t yet arrived), and so I cried, thinking that we’d made a mistake.  But then my husband reminded me that it wasn’t always easy for my ESL students back in Minnesota either.  This jolted me back into reality and helped me to gain a needed perspective from the outset.  And we’ve loved it here since.

      Mrs Lipkey Started It All

      Thinking of what inspired me to become a teacher, I always go back to Mrs Lipkey.  She was my 7th grade English teacher, and it was her that put the spark in my head.  The was very knowledgeable and encouraging, and she showed me that in being a teacher, you’re able to inspire people.  As teachers, you’re able to build relationships with students, show them what you enjoy in life, and maybe it will ignite something within them.  She was also well travelled and told us of her adventures around the world.  She started it all for me.

      The Good Job Goodbye

      One of my favourite stories from my time as YCIS Beijing was last year with a young K3 kindergarten student named Arthur.  He had a strong desire to learn English and would approach me every day with the same enthusiastic smile, trying to string words together in his second language.

      On the last day of school, I was very emotional because I adore the children and I develop a strong connection with them.  And that day, after I told Arthur goodbye and he was walking towards the bus, he suddenly stopped and turned back to look at me.  With the same big smile, he gave me a double thumbs up and said, ‘Mrs Brenda, good job.’  

      My co-teacher and I looked at each other with tears in our eyes, and we both melted.  For Arthur to say something like – to have the self-awareness at such a young age and to say it in English – it’s moments like those that remind me how much I love being a teacher.