Bay City Central H.S. social studies teacher Craig Windt is one of 25 teachers chosen nationwide to participate in a professonal development program at the China Institute in Xi'an, China. This 5-week program for teachers, partnered by National Endowment for the Humanities, includes daily lessons in Mandarin Chinese, as well as lessons about Chinese history and culture taught while visiting sites throughout the country.

While working toward his master's degree in history, Windt had just finished taking a course on East Asian cultures when he discovered the China Institute's program and was drawn to it. Although some questioned his desire to study in China when he teaches American history, Windt countered with, "There are several times in U.S. history where Chinese and U.S. history collide: the Open Door Policy, the Boxer Rebellion, WWII, Nixon in China, just to name a few." Others might have wondered about his wanting to learn Mandarin, but having begun his career as a French teacher, Windt isn’t daunted by the prospect of learning other languages; in fact, he has a knack for it. 

Nor is Windt new to travel or educational study exchange programs. After studying in Paris, France while in college, the Essexville native has since traveled widely as a tourist  in the United States and Europe and  participated in Group Study Exchanges in Romania and Australia. He uses his many and varied experiences to enrich his teaching, bringing into the classroom the global perspective that preparation for business in the 21st century requires. "As I've been teaching history, economics, and government the past few years, I think it's important to have that type of view, to be aware that there are other cultures out there and other ways of doing things." As examples, he cited his experiences in Romania as being helpful to him when teaching about economic systems and his experiences at Pearl Harbor for making his lessons on World War II much more personal. At first glance, Australia and Michigan might not seem similar either, but Windt's experiences Down Under helped him see the similarities between the struggles American teachers and their Australian counterparts face.

Mandarin Chinese is being taught in several local high schools, including the Midland schools and Bay City schools. According to Windt, his "ultimate goal in taking part in this experience would be to offer an Eastern civilization course at Central. This would be a great companion course to the Chinese language course, so that students can learn about the culture and history of the people whose language that they are learning." He is looking forward in the fall to working with the Chinese teacher as the Bay City program expands to include both high schools. 

© Jeanne Lesinski, 2009