Off to the Orient

The Oetinger family prepares for life in Guangahou Province

Tiffany TuellAugust 30, 2012 

The Oetinger family -- Rusty, Cecelia, Claire and Taylor -- have packed their bags and are heading to China -- for a whole year.

It was after hearing Yosemite High School counselor Stephanie Samuels speak about visiting a school in China that needed English speaking teachers that Rusty came up with an idea. He went home and asked his wife what she thought about teaching in China for a year and he was met with a positive response.

"When daddy came home and said 'Do you want to go to China, I thought he was joking,'" said 9-year-old Taylor.

Rusty was far from joking, though, and sent Guangdong Country Garden School in Guangahou Province an email, inquiring about their school and before they knew it, they were having Skype interviews, sending resumes and applying for Visas.

"We said if it was meant to work out, it would," Cecelia said. "The next thing we knew we were going to China."

Both teachers, Cecelia was at Bass Lake Elementary School for four years and teaching at Wasuma Elementary for 12 years. Rusty taught science, math and physical education at Oak Creek Intermediate for six years before going to Yosemite High School to work as a resource specialist, specializing in math and later becoming head golf coach for the school's successful program. He was the head boys and girls golf coach until two years ago when he began to only coach girls' golf.

While coaching he experienced multiple successes including the girls team looking to win their seventh straight league championship and the boys winning three league championships.

Rusty said they didn't think the China trip would come to fruition since he and his wife worked for different school districts, but they were both granted leaves and soon found someone to rent their house and take care of their seven pets -- two dogs and five outdoor cats (all spayed and neutered).

The Chinese school is a private K-12 boarding school at the same latitude as the Big Island of Hawaii so the weather is tropical. The school is also only about a 45 minute train and ferry ride from Hong Kong. The school is equipped with a sports facility, infirmary, hotel for visiting parents, observatory and pool. Rusty said the campus is large, approximately the size of Fresno State.

Rusty will teach math to junior high students and Cecelia will teach English as a second language. The year-long adventure will be a family affair because Rusty's sister-in-law and niece have also been hired as teachers at the school and his brother is also making the move.

Both Taylor, 9, and Claire, 12, will attend classes at the school. The school is not only for Chinese students but other international students. The girls will be busy with the school day beginning at 7:30 a.m. and ending at 7:30 p.m. Although on the English track, the girls will be taking classes to learn Mandarin every day. Already they've been preparing with the Rosetta Stone language program at home.

"Especially living in in the United States ... I talk to my girls about it being a competitive arena and if you have a second language like Mandarin, it's going to do nothing but benefit them."

Taylor said she is excited about the upcoming adventure and she is looking forward to experiencing Chinese New Year while there. Her one concern -- they won't have butter and cheese over there.

Although Clair doesn't want to leave her friends behind, she's looking forward to seeing the Great Wall of China over the Chinese New Year break.

"Oakhurst is a small community and for them to go out and see other things in the world is good for them," Cecelia said. "I think going to a school and experiencing a different work ethic will be good for them in the long run."

Neither travel lovers Rusty nor Cecelia have any reservations about the move -- to them it's just a big adventure and an amazing opportunity.

"I'm most excited about going and experiencing another culture and am excited to see what the education is like over there," Ceceila said. "Here it's become tougher with less resources and bigger classes. Over there, working with smaller classes and kids that are highly motivated sounds exciting."

Rusty also plans on coaching golf privately while in China. At the moment, the school he'll be teaching at doesn't have a golf team.

"We hear there are so many opportunities and have heard nothing but good things about China and the school," Rusty said.

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