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A memorial for Connie: Wherever you are, be there

( Updated: 2017-05-22 17:03

Jiangxi Normal University (JXNU) held a memorial for Connie Gibson on May 20.

A memorial for Connie: Wherever you are, be there
A memorial for Connie is held in Jiangxi Normal University on May 20.

Connie died of cancer on May 12 in Georgia, United States. Before she went back to the US for treatment, Connie had worked for 15 years at JXNU, where she was affectionately called “Connie Mom” by her students.

In 2000, Connie read a teachers-recruitment advertisement from ELIC (English Language Institute) by chance. She then decided to come to Nanchang, East China’s Jiangxi province, alone. Though she was already a successful real estate agent as well as a teacher of real estate finance in California, Connie came to think of it as the best choice she ever made in her life.

A memorial for Connie: Wherever you are, be there
Connie Gibson

She was a writing teacher with two classes per week when she began to teach at JXNU in 2000. However, what she did was far more than that. In the same year, she started to give English lessons at home to three students, one of whom won the second prize of the “CCTV Cup” (now the “FLTRP Cup”) English Speaking Contest two year later.

Connie opened two types of speech classes at JXNU. The first was a public speaking class that began in 2007 and had around 40 students per year, and the second was a smaller speech class for outstanding students from the first class. The speech class was held once per week at Connie’s home, and usually lasted for five hours. Moreover, she organized several English study groups with different topics, such as translation.

In order to improve the students understanding of eastern culture, she established a library, part of which she paid for.

Connie’s speech class proved to be successful. Ai Lisha, a student from the class and the winner of the 2004 “CCTV Cup” English Speaking Contest, said she was lucky to meet Connie at JXNU and attributed her success to Connie’s teaching and encouragement. Some students from Connie’s speech class advanced to national speaking and writing contests.

Connie was granted a special contribution award by the organizing committee of the “FLTRP Cup” English Speaking Contest in 2011. Earlier, in 2004, she had received the “Friendship Award” granted by the Chinese government.

Connie was no doubt a good public speaking trainer. For her students, however, she was also a life coach. Her lessons were not only about the English language, they were about life. Videos and discussions were her main teaching tools, and she picked the visual materials very carefully. They always reflected something basic, such as ethnic background, faith and belief.

“(She made me understand that) even though some things are tough, they can be solved as long as your faith is firm enough, and you figure it out step by step,” said one of Connie’s students.

“Connie Mom’s world was bright without darkness,” said another student, adding that he was influenced by her to always be “very positive”.

Liu Zhen was Connie’s student. He became a teacher at JXNU after he obtained a master’s degree in the US. “Connie Mom made me feel that being a teacher is an incredible job,” he said.

Unfortunately, Connie was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010, but she insisted on teaching though she had to take over 70 pills every day. However, she didn’t miss a single lesson. “She still smiled when she gave lessons, but the pain brought by the cancer could not be hidden,” a student said. However, Connie told people that “cancer is only a word to me”.

In 2015, she had to go back to the US for radiotherapy. A farewell party was organized by JXNU before Connie left China, and many students returned to the school from different cities to say goodbye to her.

A memorial for Connie: Wherever you are, be there
A farewell party is organized by JXNU before Connie left China in 2015.

A letter from the American Embassy in China was read at the party in appreciation of what she had done as an American teacher in China.

During her stay in China, Connie always wore a silk jacket embroidered with “JXNU”. She was always promoting JXNU. “She hoped JXNU would be known to the world; she was a spokeswoman of the university,” said a teacher from JXNU’s Foreign Languages College. She refused offers from universities in China and abroad. As she told her students, “wherever you are, be there.”

Connie combined education with love in her 15 years of teaching at JXNU. A speech given at her memorial ceremony remembered her as amiable, honorable, and full of love for society.


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