By Ryan Cornell
WINCHESTER -- Tara Woolever keeps getting fortune cookie fortunes from her coworkers.
"Because on the back, they're like, 'This will help you with Chinese,'" she said. "'This is pizza, you'll need to know this.'"
Woolever, the supervisor of social sciences and health and wellness education for Frederick County Public Schools, is one of 50 educators selected from across the U.S. to participate in a fully paid professional development tour this summer.
The tour is hosted by EF Education First and will take her to the cities of Beijing, Xi'an and Shanghai in China, where she will visit schools and cultural landmarks such as Tiananmen Square, the Great Wall and the Forbidden City between June 23 and July 2.
Woolever will represent not only Frederick County Public Schools, but also the Virginia School-University Partnership.
Jenni Williams, Virginia partnership director with EF Education First, said the supervisor was chosen for her commitment to global education and cultural awareness. Williams said Woolever is one of two Virginia educators chosen for the international program. The other educator, who is from Goochland County, will travel to Peru.
Offered the choice between Peru and China, Woolever said she picked the latter "without a doubt."
"We spend so much time focusing on ancient China and so little time focusing on modern China and it's a huge competitor at this point," she said.
"My idea is to help people understand that although our cultures' past tenses are very different, our present tenses are very similar."
After traveling to Manhattan last summer and seeing pictures of Shanghai, she said the two city skylines look very similar. She said China's contemporary history and economy should be added into the school division's curriculum.
"Unfortunately, we would stop at things like Mao for instance and the Great Leap Forward and throw in a little Tiananmen Square, but we never looked at the economy, the culture or even politics now in China," she said.
Woolever said she took her family to the National Geographic Museum in Washington, D.C., a few years ago and was amazed to be in the "same breathing space" as a handful of terracotta warriors.
During her trip this summer, she'll be able to see the entire Terracotta Army.
"You can't capture that in a movie, you can't capture that in a book, to stand there and see that," she said.
She said she hopes to blog about her experiences and communicate with teachers while on the trip.
Williams said Woolever's full scholarship provides airfare, hotel accommodations, two meals daily, the services of a bilingual tour director and all entry fees to attractions.
"These tours provide a unique opportunity for these educators to earn professional development credit and to discover the global classroom firsthand," she said. "All in a collaborative atmosphere of educators around the country."
Other stops on the tour include: the Summer Palace, Temple of Heaven Park, Big Wild Goose Pagoda, Shaanxi Provincial Historical Museum, Shanghai World Financial Center, the Bund, Jade Buddha Temple, Yu Yuan Garden and Nanjing Lu. The group of educators will also participate in a calligraphy demonstration, eat a traditional Peking duck dinner and watch a Chinese acrobatics show.
Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or firstname.lastname@example.org