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East meets West at Union

Everybody has their China, and I have mine, said Dr. Zhen Zhang, a visiting professor of East Asian Studies at Union College. "The goal is to overcome some kind of bias."

Twenty teachers from 14 area schools who are participating in the National Consortium for Teaching about Asia listened to Zhang deliver a lecture about contemporary China as part of the program.

The program is funded by the Freeman Foundation and hosted by Union Graduate College in conjunction with the Capital Region Teacher Center.

The program is managed by the Five College Center for East Asian Studies at Smith College and runs for seven Saturdays. Zhang's talk was the group's third meeting.

"The consortium allows us to deliver 30 hours of graduate level East Asian Studies content to Capital District teachers who will then be able to improve the quality of instruction on East Asia to their students," said Catherine Snyder, associate dean of Union Graduate College School of Education and the director of the NCTA program. Snyder also lived in China for a time in the 1980s.

Teachers had to write an essay of application to apply for the program. Each selected participant gets a $300 grant to purchase East Asian-related classroom materials.

Erica Svatek, 24, is a recent graduate of the Masters in Teaching program at Union Graduate College and a high school history teacher at Ichabod Crane. She said she hopes to spend the grant money to purchase artwork, facsimiles of Medieval scrolls and other resources.

"I want to make sure my students have something they can touch and see," said Svatek. "It's important to bring tactile objects into the classroom rather than just giving a lecture with the students taking notes."

Sue Beadle, a non-Western studies teacher at Queensbury High School, called the program "awesome," because it allows teachers to come up with creative ways to set the record straight about China.

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