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The road goes on for teacher Levine

By LUOWANGSHU (China Daily) Updated: 2014-10-27 03:02

The road goes on for teacher Levine

Mark Levine (right) and his partner and confidante, Fu Han, perform in Beijing in August, 2013. PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY

His journey in China has touched the lives of many and led to the Friendship Award.

Mark Levine is often described in the media as a folk singer or writer, but the bushy-bearded Californian actually makes his living through teaching and describes himself as a teacher in all the roles he fulfills.

"No matter what I am doing, I am teaching. If I am singing, I am teaching. If I am writing, I am teaching. Anything I am doing, I am teaching," the 66-year-old said, adding that he gains joy through teaching.

Levine has been an English instructor at Minzu University of China since 2008. Although China has thousands of foreign English teachers, Levine stands out from the rest. He received China's Friendship Award, the nation's highest honor for a foreigner, on Sept 30 and dined with China's top leaders at the Great Hall. The award is given to 100 foreign experts each year.

For the fall semester of 2014, Levine teaches 16 hours a week in oral English, conversational English, and American and British cultures. He also coaches students to participate in national English public speaking or debate competition. He gives a public speaking class during some semesters.

Levine first came to China in 2005 and started as an English instructor in Huai'an, in the eastern province of Jiangsu. He moved to Beijing to teach at Minzu University of China three years later.

Although he has been teaching "the same class" for nearly a decade, he never feels bored and believes that "it is not the same at all".

"I am never teaching the same thing even at the same class. Every class is different. Classes have personalities, so do students," he said, adding that some classes are very active and some are quiet.

During his time in China, Levine has learned about the country through his teaching.

"For example, being a teacher at Minda (Minzu University of China) teaches me not only about Chinese culture, but China's various cultures. The university has 70 percent non-Han students. I have the opportunity to meet Uygur, Zhuang, Yi, Hui and students from many other ethnic groups here," he said, adding that he enjoys meeting Chinese students from different ethnic groups.

Before he came to China, Levine was a social worker and organizer for working families and had worked with many minority communities all over the US. He has a PhD in sociology.

"As a sociologist in the US, I knew little about other Chinese ethnic groups other than Han. Ethnic groups usually tied with conflicts when they were reported in the West," Levine said.

"However, I can see them sitting with each other, eating with each other and sharing a dorm together, you can see people getting along here," Levine said.

True to his beliefs, Levine teaches all the time, both in and out of class.

"When I am teaching, it's not always in a classroom. If I am singing Chinese songs to a Western audience, I am introducing China to Westerners," Levine said.

He wrote down his experiences in China and published them in a book called Stories from My Chinese Journey.

He also wrote songs about China and performed in many activities.

As a folk musician, Levine occasionally brings his guitar to class and teaches students to learn English through music occasionally.

"I usually do it once a semester during the Christmas period if possible," Levine said, adding that he will sing Christmas songs in order to introduce the culture of Christmas to students.

Hu Qiang, a junior from Minzu University of China, spent a year with Levine and took his oral English and public speaking classes.

"He told of many real cases in American society based on his amazing personal experiences as a social worker, which led me to take a down-to-earth approach and to care about the real world," the 19-year-old said.

"He also led diverse and active class. He would sing in class and also introduced Western culture through singing," Hu added.

Hu believes that Levine's diverse experiences enrich his classes.

Another former student, primary teacher Pan Xinxing, still keeps in touch with Levine after graduating eight years ago.

"Compared to the majority of teachers in college, Mark is more likely to spend time with students. He always talked to us and even invited us out to know us better," the 28-year-old said.

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