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District receives Confucius award

Vice-Premier of China Madam Yandong Liu presents the 2013 Confucius Classroom of the Year Award to Oxford Superintendent Dr. William Skilling. Photo provided. (click for larger version)
December 18, 2013 - Oxford Community Schools (OCS) received praise from the Asia Society after being selected for the "2013 Confucius Classroom of the Year Award" from The Confucius Institute (Hanban).

The award was presented by Vice-Premier of China, Madam Yandong Liu to OCS Superintendent Dr. William Skilling during the 2013 Confucius Institute World Conference in Beijing, China on Dec. 7.

"This is comparable to being presented an award from Vice-President Joe Biden here in the United States," Skilling said.

According to a press release, OCS was selected for this honor due to "strong leadership in the development of international understanding, the district's Fifth CoreTM World Language and Culture Program, a commitment to international exchange and collaboration, and a global vision for the future of our students and community."

Five Confucius Classrooms were chosen for this distinction from more than 600 worldwide. Of the 600 programs, only three were located in the United States.

"The Confucius Classroom at Oxford Community Schools is committed to cultivating future global leaders who are proficient in Madarin Chinese language and culture," said Skilling. "We are deeply grateful for the support of the Asia Society and the Confucius Institute Headquarters (Hanban). Because of their support, our schools are currently providing successful Mandarin Chinese instruction to over 2,400 American students."

He also said "it was really a shock and an honor" when he received a call concerning the award on Nov. 14, just before leaving to go deer hunting.

"I got this call out of New York from Jeff Wang who is the executive director of the Asia Society. He was contacted by Hanban in the Confucius Institute about Oxford being the top Confucius classroom at that time he told me in the world that we would be recognized as the best," he added. "They were really pleased by the size of our program and they were amazed we could have such a large program in such a homogeneous community in (a) small town, (and) the fact that we are teaching more students Mandarin Chinese language and culture than all the rest of the schools in the state of Michigan combined."

The Asia Society is the leading global organization that promotes and strengthens understanding among the peoples, leaders and institutions of Asia and the United States. Its education and Chinese language initiatives are committed to enhancing the capacity and quality of Chinese language and culture programs in U.S. schools and fostering future leadership through youth partnership between the United States and China.

"When you have more understanding of the country and develop a stronger and stronger trade relationship, business commerce relationship you automatically reduce the potential for conflict because you become so interdependent of each other," Skilling said. "This (relationship between the United States and China) is going to be good for our future, China's future and good for the world's future because we are now the two superpowers of the world and we're going to continue to be the top two superpowers of the world for many, many years to come, so it's important we work cooperatively together. Not just for our sake, but for the world's sake."

Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum & Instruction Dr. James Swartz said they could not have been given the award if not for the hard work and effort of Oxford's teachers.

"Our teachers work very hard to ensure students are progressing in reading, writing, speaking and listening in their language studies.  They are always in a state of analysis and looking for how we can make improvements in our program," explained Swartz. "Curriculums and assessments are continually being refined and new resources are being utilized to assist in making acquisition of the language easier and faster.  Our nomination for this award is a great testament to this ongoing dedication and efforts of our teachers."

Trevor graduated with degrees in English and communications from Rochester College. He wrote for his college and LA View newspapers before joining The Clarkston News in May 2007.
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