AIC Students Teaching English in China

Four student athletes from American International College have found new homes and new jobs teaching English in China.

Springfield, MA, December 13, 2013 --( Sometimes you have to leave home to find a home...and a job. That was the case for four American International College student athletes who were looking for career options after their senior year and ended up in China. Stephen Lampkin an AIC football player, Rochelle Higgins, an AIC Rugby player, Daniel Pugliese, football, and Jeff Ceccacci, hockey, are all teaching as English specialists in Beijing thanks to a partnership between AIC and Etonkids Educational Group.

Etonkids, a collaboration of experts in the fields of education, research and school management, utilizes educational philosophies and models of successful school management from around the world to improve China's early education sector. Etonkids arranges the teaching assignment, travel, and helps find suitable living arrangements.

AIC President Vince Maniaci learned about the program during a recent visit to China, paid for by Chinese entrepreneurs who wanted to look at American education. "One of the biggest problems they have in China is finding English-speaking teachers, so it's a great opportunity for our students to land a good paying job and gain an international experience right out of college," he said.

Maniaci said it's a win-win situation for everyone. “China gets teachers and AIC graduates are not only employed but have the added benefit of being able to experience living and working abroad. Increasingly, colleges are being measured by the number of graduates that have jobs," he said.

Upon his return from China, Maniaci shared his excitement about the Etonkids program with students on the AIC campus. "When I got back in April I went into the dining commons and started talking about the program. Four students immediately signed up, interviewed and are now teaching in Beijing," he said.

Daniel Pugliese, a biology major from Hope, R.I., was one of the students Maniaci recruited. "I was about to graduate and I needed a job," Pugliese said. "I had looked into AmeriCorps and while waiting to hear from them I was approached by Vince about the possibility of working in China. I had enjoyed teaching through tutoring and I had dealt with young kids during a summer camp, so I said, 'Go to China? Why not?' And here I am," Pugliese said.

Stephen Lampkin, an elementary education major from Norwich, Conn., said outside of a little homesickness everything is going fine. "This might be one of the best decisions I've ever made in my life. It's given me a clearer outlook on life and exposed me to things that I might have never experienced otherwise. Everything is going wonderfully out here. I'm really starting to get settled in and enjoying it here more and more each day," Lampkin said

Etonkids uses the Montessori model in the classroom, which Jeff Ceccacci said is a little different than traditional U.S. classrooms. "The Montessori style of teaching means that we are mainly observing the children for large portions of the day. There is also small group work which takes place during Montessori time. This gives me a chance to work more closely with children on their English, as well as set up groups so that the children are working with others who are at about the same level of English comprehension as them," he said.

Ceccacci, a communication major from Placentia, Calif., said he is happy with his decision to come to China. "I think at first there were days where I was wondering what I was doing here, but the longer I am here and the more comfortable I get with the city and the culture, the more Beijing starts to feel like home for me. There are so many great and potentially life-changing opportunities here, especially in the business and education sectors," he said.

Pugliese admits there are a lot of cultural differences between the U.S. and China. "The children of China spend their days, nights and weekends studying. They don't engage in social activities until they have graduated high school," he said.

"Another thing I love about the culture is they are incredibly family oriented. Parents, grandparents and kids all live together, if not in the same house then in the same community. In the evening they all go to the common areas to play badminton and talk, or they go to the subway stops where the old folks will do line dances to old Chinese standards, and there will occasionally be open air karaoke, also performed by the older population," according to Pugliese.

Constantine Zhu, foreign staff recruitment supervisor at Etonkids, said of the program, “It has been a pleasure partnering with AIC. The four graduates hired this past summer have proven to be tremendous resources for our students and have demonstrated professionalism. Our students’ parents as well as Etonkids campus staff are pleased with the impact AIC’s graduates are having on the education of our students. We would like to encourage other AIC graduates to come and join us as we look forward to a long and happy relationship with AIC into the future!”

Next year, Maniaci said he is hoping to significantly increase the number of students teaching in China, as 14 students have already applied to the program. "From everything I've heard the Chinese are very pleased with all of our graduates. They are some of the best people they have, and our students are having a great time."
American International College
Craig Greenberg