2013-10-25 / Front Page

Cape superintendent eastern bound

By Ann Fisher
Contributing writer


Meredith Nadeau Meredith Nadeau CAPE ELIZABETH – Meredith Nadeau has backpacked her way across western Europe and visited family on frequent trips to the United Kingdom, but an upcoming trip to China promises to be the most exotic locale the school superintendent has traveled to yet.

Nadeau has been chosen to be part of the 2013 Chinese Bridge Delegation that will travel to Beijing province during a weeklong trip Nov. 6–14.

According to a news release posted on the Cape Elizabeth town website, Chinese Bridge Delegation for American Schools is sponsored by the College Board, the Confucius Institute and Hanban, the Chinese National Office for teaching Chinese as a second language. Highlights of the program include visits to local schools, cultural activities and workshops.

Those who are chosen from across the country to participate in the educational trip to China are guests of Hanban/ Confucius Institute Headquarters in China. Nadeau learned about the opportunity through the Maine Department of Education and applied in the spring.

Nadeau will fly to Los Angeles for the first leg of the journey. She will leave L.A. Nov. 5 at 12:40 a.m., and is scheduled to arrive in Beijing at 5:30 a.m. the next day after a 12-hour and 40-minute flight. She will return to the U.S. Nov. 15.

“I kind of got the acceptance letter … but don’t really expect anything to happen,” said Nadeau about the confirmation, who wrote in her application about “what an opportunity it would be and how I would hope to share that with students and others.”

Although this is Nadeau’s first trip to the Far East, her grandfather lived in England and, she said, “I spent a fair amount of time there.” Nadeau also spent a summer backpacking in western Europe when she was 26 after she earned her master’s in education at the University of New Hampshire. Among other countries she visited Belgium, France and Germany. “Kind of here, there and everywhere,” said Nadeau, who has led the Cape Elizabeth School district for three years.

During the trip, the delegation will offer opportunities to visit Chinese K-12 schools and post-secondary institutions, meet with Chinese educators, observe classes and interact with students.

The program also promises to show “the rich traditional culture set against stunning modern development.”

“I’m always excited by the challenge to see how other cultures handle education,” Nadeau said..

“It’s an opportunity to explore life in another culture. Eastern culture is generally quite different than ours.”

“But plenty speak English,” she added with a trace of relief.

It’s well documented that a big part of the difference between Eastern and Western cultures is their diets, and Asian cultures are known for unusual delicacies. Nadeau said she will probably skip the less palatable and exotic dishes.

“I’ve rarely met a vegetable I didn’t like, but I’m not adventurous when it comes to meat,” she said.

The food may be different, but she learned the late-October weather in Beijing is similar to New England in the fall.

“It’s a little bit colder (than Maine,) I’m told,” Nadeau said.

Nadeau said she is not nervous about the upcoming trip, but added, “I think the hardest part is, I have a young daughter, and she’s a little emotional about me being gone what, for her, feels like a long time.”

Nadeau said to allay the fears of the 5-year-old – as well as Nadeau’s other daughter, who is 7 – she has made an activity book they can work on when she is gone that includes her itinerary.

Nadeau will spend part of the time allotted in Beijing and part in provincial areas. Three days are devoted to professional development, while Nadeau plans to take the remaining five days as part of her vacation time. All her time, however, will be spent with the delegation, which includes other school district leaders and “college and university folks.”

“The board enthusiastically supports the superintendent’s trip to China as a member of the College Board’s 2013 Bridge Delegation as part of the her selfdirected professional development path,” said John Christie, chairman of the Cape Elizabeth Board of Education in an email. “It represents an opportunity to join with other K12 educational leaders nationwide to gain a better understanding of global education and cultural issues.”

Christie added, “There is no cost to taxpayers for the trip. The program is sponsored by Confucius Institute and the College Board and Ms. Nadeau will pay related costs.”

The delegation program was established in China to help foreign educators “start or strengthen their institution’s Chinese programs and partnerships.”

Serendipitously, the Confucius Institute was established by the University of Southern Maine this year for Cape middleschoolers. Nadeau announced in her Oct. 8 superintendent’s report that 58 students have signed up for an after-school course to learn Mandarin Chinese being offered in conjunction with community services.

“I hope (the trip) will be an opportunity to connect with those students,” said Nadeau, who also wants to find a sister school for Cape Elizabeth if she can while traveling abroad.

“I have always wanted to make a visit to China ...”, said Nadeau.

“It takes your breath away, a little bit, but it’s exciting to think, ‘I’m going to China.’”

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