DUNLOW, W.Va. — Jeb Dickerson took a chance moving across the world to teach English in China, but never could have guessed his experiences and how they would connect him to his new job temporarily teaching at Dunlow Elementary School.
Dickerson, a Wayne High School graduate and county native, currently working as a long-term substitute at Dunlow Elementary said he is excited to teach students about the Chinese culture as well as his experiences abroad during the elementary school’s upcoming Culture Week in October.
Dickerson spent nearly five months teaching in China, helping students aged 3 to 60 with a variety of skill levels learn English.
As a result of his personal experiences, he hopes to encourage students to travel and learn about other cultures.
“I would absolutely love to get kids interested in travel, in traveling to china or any of the other countries I’ve been to,” he said. “I never thought I would grow up and move to china to learn mandarin. I never thought I would learn Spanish. You never think you’ll use it until you randomly decide to move across the world to another country.”
Dickerson traveled to teach in China in October 2019.
Though he graduated from Marshall University with a bachelor’s degree in political science, he learned to love teaching when required to teach undergraduate students in order to complete his master’s degree in public administration.
While Dickerson was expected to stay in China for at least another six months, he decided to return to Wayne County in February 2020 when COVID-19 cases were increasing and the country was close to shutting down completely.
The private school Dickerson was teaching for, Education First institute, located in Shanghai, gave him and other teachers an opportunity to return to their home countries as the school would be switching to virtual learning.
Dickerson said he was worried because he was unsure what was happening, so he went home to teach virtually.
“I didn’t know what was going to happen so when they gave me that option to go home and do the job from home, I took it,” he said. “I left the week before they shut everything down, like the airport closed. We didn’t know anything about COVID then. All I knew in the very beginning was that Chinese people were calling it ‘the virus’ and we knew that everybody in Wuhan was on lockdown.”
Dickerson went on to teach English to students in China virtually until March 2021, and was then hired as a substitute for the first semester of the 2021-22 school year at Dunlow.
Whether teaching in-person or virtually, Dickerson said teaching in China and the United States are very different experiences.
With the obvious change being that he is no longer limited to just teaching English, Dickerson said he was at first overwhelmed by teaching other subjects.
As a fourth- and fifth-grade teacher, he said he was happy to be teaching children again but had to adjust to teaching science, math and more to his students.
Beyond the coursework, he said, children also act differently due to culture.
“Academically, Chinese students tend to do way better than we do, but socially, it’s almost like they’re sheltered. It’s a huge difference,” he said.
“Our kids are, I’ll say, they’re socially more mature because they have that exposure to everything. American children are entirely more energetic. Chinese kids, it’s almost like they’re sheltered. And when I say that, I mean they don’t get the exposure to media. They don’t get the exposure to TV or video games.”
Now, with his love for teaching continuing to grow, Dickerson said he is looking into how to become a certified teacher.
Even though he has nearly four years of teaching experience total, he may have to return to college to receive an education degree due to qualification requirements in the district.