Tenzin, one of our recent international fellows, has just a few days left in the States when he sits down with a cup of green tea and explains: “Trace gives students from very remote places the opportunity to see the bigger world. The young generation in these remote counties is the future. If you can open their minds, if you can give them a hint of what’s going on in the world, that’s the beginning of change. You ignited that.”
At the International Language Institute, where he studied first, mornings were devoted to grammar and vocabulary, and afternoons were devoted to poetry, to art, to music. His favorites. That’s how he learned that teaching English is not just about reading, writing, and speaking, but about opening his students’ eyes to the bigger world. It was here that he fell in love with country music, and it was here that he read Robert Frost for the first time. He went on to a masters program in teaching English at the SIT Graduate Institute, then an internship at an immigrant-learning center, where he taught English of all ages.
Teaching all ages is not new for Tenzin. In the nomadic area he grew up, it’s not uncommon for middle schoolers to be as old as nineteen. If a kid’s family needs support at home—whether it’s in herding sheep or running errands—school can wait. In his school now, he is one of five English teachers, and the only teacher who has taken the road less traveled, the only teacher who has studied English abroad and the only one with a graduate degree. He smiles. “This opportunity and this scholarship totally changed my life, in terms of my future plans and profession. This will be my lifelong treasure.”
Sit down with any Trace Foundation fellow, and they will tell you the same thing: There's a teaching style common in Tibetan areas of China called “Jug and Mug.” The teacher—the full jug—pours knowledge into the students—the empty mugs. And this teaching style is the single biggest challenge facing Tibetan students today.
“The teacher is the knower, and he or she transmits knowledge to the students by lecturing," one of our recent fellows, Kelsang Gyi explains. Since we supported her a few years ago to study teaching methodology and English in the United States, she has been winning her colleagues over, one at a time. The problem with Jug and Mug, she tells them, is that no student is ever an empty mug; and that's why she advocates for facilitating discussion, creating a safe learning environment, and encouraging students to become self-learners.
Each year, we support more than 500 individuals by covering the costs of tuition and living expenses. With your tremendous contributions, we've raised $20,548 for our project since December 2012 ($19,048 through GlobalGiving and another $1,500 through other donations). Moving beyond Jug and Mug is no easy goal, but with your support, we know we can transform education on the Tibetan Plateau from the ground up, one donation, one student, one teacher like Kelsang Gyi at a time.
Get a head start on your holiday shopping with a gift to our scholarship program!
In 2011, around 900 senior middle school graduates applied for our Tibetan Medium Senior Middle School Graduate Scholarship. Of these, one third were female. Of the 300 females, only 80 were enrolled in science-related majors. That's why we have just developed new postgraduate scholarships programs, one for women in the sciences and another to support female professionals to pursue graduate degrees in law and business management.
Now your support can make more of an impact than ever.
With your tremendous contributions, we've raised $20,323 for our project since December ($18,823 through GlobalGiving and another $1,500 through other donations). We're more than a quarter of the way to reaching our end goal, but now we need your help again. Our next challenge is to raise $5,000 to become what GlobalGiving calls "superstars"—an organization picked out of thousands to receive corporate sponsorship recommendations, social media attention, and much more.
What does $5000 mean?
Your contributions mean more opportunities for making a difference in the lives of young women on the Tibetan Plateau like Kelsang Gyi, a young woman whom we supported to study in the States a few years ago. Now, she's back home teaching in Qinghai. While she’s faced considerable challenges back home—packed classrooms, a rigid teaching style she calls "jug and mug," and subpar teaching materials—her scholarship has steeled her for the future. She always gives her students the chance to think for themselves. She listens to them, respects them, and asks for feedback. And the students respond to this style wholeheartedly.
“My students love me and are very close to me,” she reports proudly.
Stay tuned for a full story on Kelsang Gyi in our next report.
Each year, Trace Foundation supports more than 500 individuals by covering the costs of tuition and living expenses, whether in the People’s Republic of China or abroad. Though we support a select number of fellows like Kelsang Gyi to study abroad, the core of our funding goes to students domestically, and that's where your help will make the biggest difference.
Thank you from everyone at Trace Foundation for your ongoing support.
It’s the kind of trip you see in the movies. Pack your bags, load up the car with bottled water and snacks, and drive ever west into the sun. In Norbu Wangyal’s case, everything he knew of California before then was limited to what he’d seen in the movies. After growing up in nomadic area on the Tibetan Plateau, he’d spent most of his time in the States in Massachusetts and Vermont, first at the International Language Institute in Northampton, then learning English at Boston College, and finally at the SIT Graduate Institute.
After days on a road that seemed to stretch on without end, he and his friends were nearing California when they stopped at a rest area for lunch. A lonely older trucker approached them, set down his lunch box, gave them pointers on what to see in California, and then explained the best way to hunt and cook deer. This kind of experience, Norbu laughs, is not something you could replicate in any classroom. “I learned both inside and outside the classroom. At colleges in China—you always learn inside the classroom. In the States, you go to a party and learn different things. You’re learning the culture,” Norbu adds.
The son of a taxi driver and a middle-school cafeteria cook, Norbu came up in school the way most Tibetans do in Qinghai: At boarding schools, kids and teachers alike wake every morning at 5 for memorization and go to bed at 11 p.m. exhausted. There are no weekends, only long stretches of homework and testing (four per year), broken now and then by seven-day holidays. Even today, while there are many wonderful teachers, schools are also filled with professionals who didn’t make it in medical or military careers and are looking for easy job opportunities. Without formal training, many teachers fall back on the teaching methodology they grew up with, one that stressed testing, memorization, and corporal punishment; they simply don’t know any way but the one they themselves were taught.
And what did Trace Foundation’s support mean to Norbu? “Teaching is a lifetime job. I couldn’t do anything else. After coming to SIT, I’ll be able to teach with an awareness about the influence I make on the students. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without this scholarship.”
Each year, Trace Foundation supports more than 500 individuals by covering the costs of tuition and living expenses, whether in the People’s Republic of China or abroad. Though we support a select number of fellows like Norbu to study abroad, the core of our funding goes to students domestically and that's where your help will make the biggest difference. With your generous support, we've raised $20,148 for this project since December ($18,648 through GlobalGiving and another $1500 through other donations). We still have a way to go before we reach our goal of $78,000. But when we come together, even small contributions have the potential to make a profound impact: to help us give access to education and transform a generation. Thank you from everyone at Trace Foundation.
Dear Trace Foundation friends,When we kicked off our GlobalGiving campaign in December to support 30 young Tibetans pursuing their master and PhDs, we were blown away by your generosity. We received donations totaling over $20,000 in one month alone: $15,000 of that through GlobalGiving, and the rest through other donations.Just few days after our project went live, we received an e-mail from Tsering Wangyal, a friend of our librarian. In it, he wrote about a friend who was able to benefit from a Trace scholarship. “I think these projects are wonderful for directly benefiting and making an impact at the grassroots level,” he said. “We are glad to make a small contribution to your project.” Even more remarkable, when he spoke to his daughters about the campaign one night over dinner, even they were inspired—as one Tibetan to another—to contribute out of their monthly pocket money, as was Amala (grandma in Tibetan).Then, after the New Year, we received a visitor to our New York office: a thirty-two-year-old Tibetan woman fresh from a year of study at the SIT Graduate Institute, beamed from ear to ear as she talked about her time in the States.“Sometimes your dream’s big,” she said, “but it doesn’t mean you can realize it unless someone supports you. Trace Foundation definitely changed my life.”After receiving years of support from Trace to develop and implement English teacher training in Qinghai, she applied to us for a scholarship to pursue a Master of Arts in teaching English as a second language through the SIT Graduate Institute. In her application, she wrote about wanting to address the inequities of young Tibetans’ lives: poor education, inadequate health care, and poverty in general: “Within a few months,” she wrote at the time, “my first class will graduate and they will become the teachers of the students who are living in the same conditions that they used to live in, i.e., without enough food, clothes, books, pencils, etc. These students are very clever, just like the many famous people who have contributed to the betterment of humanity, and they, too, deserve better education and better lives.” She has come a long way from her beginnings growing up in a small village where collecting yak dung for fuel took precedence over sticking her nose in books. Back then, English wasn’t a subject available to students—math, chemistry, and geography were all taught in Chinese, a language she struggled with. Everything changed for her when she met her first English teacher, who introduced her to the ABC’s and inspired her to make a difference for other young Tibetans.
She was a 2011 Trace international fellow at the SIT Graduate Institute in Brattleboro, Vermont, where she received a Master of Arts in Teaching English as a Second Language. Each year, Trace Foundation supports more than 500 individuals by covering the costs of tuition and living expenses, whether in the People’s Republic of China or abroad. Though we support a select number of fellows like her to study abroad, the core of our funding goes to students domestically and that's where your help will make the biggest difference. We still have a way to go before we reach our goal of $78,000. But when we come together, even small contributions like those of Tsering's daughters, have the potential to make a profound impact: to help us give access to education and transform a generation. Thank you from everyone at Trace Foundation.
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