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Two Oles selected for Teach for China program

By Kyle Schut '13
June 15, 2012

Frances Deram '12 and Matt Venker '12 will spend two years teaching English in rural Chinese schools as part of the Teach for China program.

Frances Deram '12 and Matt Venker '12 will spend two years teaching English in rural Chinese schools as part of the Teach for China program that aims to address educational inequity in Chinese society by hiring Chinese and Americans to work side-by-side in rural classrooms.

The two were among the 55 individuals selected from a pool of more than 2,500 applicants to become fellows with the program, which aims to address the gap in access to quality education that exists between rural and urban Chinese communities.  

Many schools in rural Chinese communities face issues such as overcrowded classrooms, lack of adequately trained teachers, and lack of access to English education. Because English proficiency is a highly scrutinized part of the Chinese collegiate entrance exams, rural students face a significant disadvantage when it comes to seeking higher education.

"In order to get into good high schools and good colleges, kids need to do well on their English exams, which is difficult if a school can only afford so many teachers," explains Venker. "Most will just hire the educators who teach other subjects well, even if their English is non-existent, so that’s somewhere I hope I'm able to contribute."

TFC aims to address the educational inequity present in Chinese society by hiring promising graduates from both Chinese and American colleges and universities to work side-by-side in rural classrooms. Their purpose is not simply to teach English, but also to gain a greater understanding of and work to change the causes of the inequity.

Venker's interest in ESL education stems both from his interest in Chinese culture and from his desire to help ease the burden on rural Chinese educators. Deram first became interested in ESL education while studying in Shanghai during St. Olaf’s Term in China program. Over the course of her semester abroad, she met several foreign and American grads working as English teachers, and she was inspired by their stories.

"Their stories and experiences ignited my own excitement for working with Chinese youth," Deram says.

Contact David Gonnerman at 507-786-3315 or