Couple teaches in China and spends summers on Lake Koronis

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 8/16/00 and corrected on 9/27/00.

China teachers Ron-Michael and Daisy Pellant (shown at right with their children, Ruby, 2 1/2, and Max, eight and a half months) agree that teaching overseas is great. They start their fifth year of teaching in China this week at the International School of Beijing. They left their summer home on Lake Koronis Sunday to prepare for the new school year, which runs from mid-August to mid-June.

 Both are teachers at the middle school level, where Daisy is a health and theater teacher and Ron-Michael teaches computers. In the past, he has taught English and social science.

 The couple met in graduate school at the University of St. Thomas. Two years later they were teaching in Kuwait. Of their years as teachers, they have spent seven years overseas.

They learned about teaching overseas at a job fair. Their first foreign assignment was in Kuwait, where Robb and Linda Hoiseth of Paynesville were assigned to be their mentors. It was through the Hoiseths that they were introduced to Paynesville. They met the Hoiseths for the first time in Paynesville before traveling to Kuwait.

 The Pellants find it natural that they would want to teach overseas. They both have European mothers. Daisy's mother is a native of England, and Ron-Michael's is from Sweden. "I traveled a lot as a child," Daisy said. "I really valued that time." During college, Daisy lived in New Zealand and Australia for awhile.

 To teach overseas, they agree that a person needs to enjoy a challenge. "You are living in a foreign country where you do not know the language or culture, and you can't even read the signs to know where to go to the bathroom," Daisy said.

 "You need to be comfortable living clueless and get used to using hand signals to find your way around," she added.

 "We love the challenge," Ron-Michael said.

International school
"In China, they allow you to teach the way it should be, in smaller classes surrounded by a supportive community," Daisy said. "I'll take small class sizes and a positive education experience over a fancy textbook," she added.

 The private school where they teach is a preschool to 12th grade facility. It has about 1,200 students from more than 50 different countries. Because of the diversity of students, the Pellants speak English when teaching.

 The school is for the children of expatriats...ambassadors, teachers, and businessmen. Daisy explained there are no nationalist Chinese attending the school because the government fears they will become tainted by the Western thinking of the teachers.

 "We have almost every race and skin color in the classroom. There is almost no prejudice. The kids are so accepting of each other. The people are very warm and humorous," Ron-Michael added

 Daisy said the kids are really accepting of newcomers. They don't shun them but welcome them to join their group of friends.

Ron-Michael explained the students who have difficulties work hard and enjoy school. The school, teachers, and parents work together to help students. The students expect school to be fun, challenging, and interesting. Our culture in America is more competitive, he added.

 Being a private school, the students are able to take trips during the school year. Last year Ron-Michael took his China studies class to Mongolia for a week. Every year the students take a week out of the school year to study nearby. The studies are tied to the school curriculum.

 "The students do pretty much the same routine as students here. It is just on a different continent," Ron-Michael said. "They have sports after school and compete against other international schools. However, for a tournament, they fly to Japan or Malaysia instead of going to a neighboring town."

 "We love teaching in the middle school. The students are so full of fun and energy. They want to learn. At this age they really need caring adults in their lives," Daisy said.

 Chinese culture
At the end of the school day, grandparents wait for the students to come out of public school. "Children are highly valued in the country," Daisy said. It is very common for the grandparents to live with their children and raise their grandchildren while the parents work. In the evenings, the parents spend several hours helping with homework.

 When they say it takes a village to raise a child, that's what China is like, Ron-Michael said. You don't hear about child molestation, murder, or kidnappings there, added Daisy. "The children are safe and watched out for. We can learn a lot from them," said Daisy.

 China has a large older population. At 5 a.m., it is not uncommon to see older people out walking their birds, doing ballroom dancing in the park, exercising with a broad sword, or fan dancing.

 Ron-Michael said they have described their surroundings by colors. Kuwait is sand beige and Paynesville is green. Beijing is charcoal because of the air pollution. "In the time we have lived in Beijing, the air pollution has improved a lot," Daisy said.

 "When big wigs from another country come to visit, they shut down industry a couple days in advance so the air doesn't look polluted during their visit," Ron-Michael said.

 The couple feels the recent World Trade Organization agreement will be a big benefit for China. "China is hungry for American culture, and the World Trade Organization will make China accountable to the rest of the world. In China, there is no union or workers' rights," Ron-Michael said

 "I think our patriotism has increased tenfold after living overseas," Ron-Michael said. "A person has a greater appreciation of the United States after being overseas. You don't appreciate what you have until it's gone," he added.

 Summer break
The Pellants spend their summer breaks on the south shore of Lake Koronis. The couple has two children, Ruby, 2 1/2, and Max, eight and a half months.

 This summer they brought Aji, their child care provider in China, back to Paynesville with them. "We thought it was a great chance for her to see America," Daisy said. "It was a win-win situation for us as she has become part of the family."

 Their children are considered third culture kids, growing up with a mixture of both worlds. Their daughter, Ruby, is growing up bi-lingual. She already corrects her parents' pronunciations of Chinese words.

 One reason the Pellants return to Minnesota every summer is they want their children to have a midwestern heritage, too.

 "We want Paynesville to be home base. It is important to us that they develop midwestern values. In the Middle East, it is not uncommon for children's caretakers to feed and pamper them until they are young adults. We don't want that. Our children need to learn to do things for themselves," Daisy said.

 It also gives the children a chance to visit their grandparents. Ron-Michael's parents live in Wausau, Wis., and Daisy's family lives in the Twin Cities.

 The couple finds Paynesville a friendly town, an ideal place to come to find relaxation. "Paynesville is both physically and spiritually beautiful. We have met nothing but kindness," Daisy said.

 The Pellants see themselves as career overseas teachers. They will probably stay overseas until their children are through school.

 Anyone wishing more information about teaching in China or about their school can e-mail the Pellants at

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