Growing up on one side of the planet and living on another side is all about the experience, said Dai Huapeng, Canal Winchester Local School district's native Chinese teacher.

Growing up on one side of the planet and living on another side is all about the experience, said Dai Huapeng, Canal Winchester Local School district's native Chinese teacher.

"The biggest purpose is the experience," he said. "Sometimes you don't know until you experience it."

His Chinese name is written in English as Dai Huapeng; his students call him "Dai Laoshi," which means "teacher Dai," but he has also taken Robin as his first name in English.

Dai, a 30-year-old from Chongqing in southwestern China, has been teaching Chinese to 23 sixth-graders and 20 high school students since classes started about a month ago. He said he's been lucky to have some good students who are excited to learn about China's language and culture.

"You can never imagine the questions they'll ask," he said.

He said he is one of about 140 native Chinese teachers teaching in schools across the nation as part of a program supported by the Chinese government and the College Board, a not-for-profit organization that provides education opportunities for students hoping to attend college.

This is his first time in the U.S., but he's no stranger to living abroad.

After graduating from Southwest University in Chongqing, Dai said he studied for a few years in order to pass a test for foreign speakers of English called the International English Language Testing System, which is a standardized test that most Chinese university students try to score well in so they can study abroad.

"I spent thousands of hours studying," he added.

Because so many Chinese college students wish to study abroad, the competition is tough, but Dai prevailed and left for Ireland in 2002 to study at Queen's University in Belfast for a year. He then spent another six months traveling around Europe and working part-time.

He said he's been to eight European countries, Egypt and now the United States.

"I'm kind of an international traveler," he said.

Dai said while he was in Ireland, he worked as a waiter and host in a pub. He recalled the time a customer came in and asked for a beer, but his Irish accent was much different than the English Dai had learned in school.

"I was shocked," he said. "It almost destroyed my confidence in English."

When he went back to Southwest University, he was offered a teaching position as an English instructor. He said he not only taught the English language to Chinese students, but also taught other subjects in English to Chinese.

Dai said many universities in China now teach other subjects in English to give Chinese university students a global classroom experience.

He said teaching is much more student-centered in the U.S. whereas in China, many teachers prefer a teacher-centered approach.

For instance, he said, in China typical teachers will lecture to the class and expect students to pass a test based on their ability to memorize and reiterate the information, but in the U.S., it seems the focus is on the different abilities of students to learn the information based on many tactics by the teacher.

Nevertheless, "education is a process where you take the information and make it your own," he said.

When he's not teaching, Dai said he likes to play guitar and play basketball.

And although Chinese food suits his tastes, he said he can handle the food here.

"I'm open to everything. I like to try new things," he said. "I have an international stomach already."

Dai said he'd like to see his students begin to understand, respect and be tolerant of cultural differences. He also said he'd like show his students how the Chinese view Americans. He said he views Americans as more straightforward, easygoing and sometimes a bit proud. He said that the United States is viewed as a modernized and developed country.

As for being a Chinese teacher in this country, he said, "I feel honored. We are the messengers of the Chinese culture."

ebrooks@thisweeknews.com