#SPPinChina Photo Gallery

#SPPinChina Wraps up Amazing Trip

If you’ve followed along with our updates, you know it’s safe to say our students and teachers experienced a once-in-a-lifetime journey through China, learning the history, culture, customs, and more.

We have one last trove of photos to share, and we thank you for following along with us as we watched our group explore China.

#SPPinChina Update

As many of you know, we currently have a group of students and teachers wandering around China, learning about Chinese history, culture, and language, while exploring the many sights (and food) of the country.

The group just wrapped up Day 16 of the trip and returns July 14. Below are OVER 100 PHOTOS taken from July 5 to July 10. Enjoy!

First Photo Gallery

(Originally posted July 3) Our group has been in China a little over a week now, and from the look of things, they’re having plenty of good food and loads of fun exploring the country and learning about Chinese culture! What’s your favorite photo? Comment below!

Advisor’s Angle: Communication Styles

Janel-CookBy Nacel Open Door Student and
Host Family Advisor Janel Cook

How would you describe your communication style: direct or indirect? Did you know that Americans are considered to be some of the most direct communicators in the world?

In the United States, people tend to be more direct when communicating compared to other countries where indirect conversations are the norm. This means that students might have moments of miscommunication, embarrassment, or confusion simply due to different communication styles. This is normal and okay; they are from different countries
and cultures after all.

How do you bridge the gap between indirect and direct communication styles? Ask open ended questions (therefore avoiding yes or no answers), set aside time everyday for conversation with your student, and don’t assume that the student understands you, especially during the first few weeks of their arrival. Be sure to ask follow up questions to ensure that communication is crystal clear for everyone. Most of all, have fun and enjoy your time conversing across cultures.comm1.jpg

Direct communicators (U.S. and most European countries) are typically straight to the point, open to confronting issues, and willing to engage in conflict if necessary. They
express opinions freely, say things clearly, and do not leave room for interpretation.

Indirect communicators (Japan, South Korea, China and many Latin American countries) focus on how something is said more so than what is said, avoid difficult or potentially
embarrassing situations (called saving face), avoid conflict whenever possible, express opinions and concerns diplomatically, and count on the listener to interpret the meaning of what is said.

“[F]lexibility and mutual respect are key to dealing with differences in communication styles.” -Cynthia Joyce, professor

Connecting to Bangladesh Students Through Art

Last December I was one of five teachers selected from across the United States to participate in an exchange program through World Savvy and the U.S. State Department. I took 30 high school students to Bangladesh to study the environmental, social, economic, and political impacts of climate change. Teachers and students spent one month living with host families and participating in research and service projects with local Bangladeshi students. I lived in Rayer Bazar, a slum in Dhaka – the fastest growing city in the world, fulfilling my service project through the interviewing and documenting of local climate refugees. The mass influx of “climate refugees” is due to citizens in the outlying areas fleeing their flooded coastal lands that are left uninhabitable or too saline-contaminated to support crops.


During the days, I walked through the streets of Rayer Bazar interviewing climate refugees with the aid of a translator. The majority longed to go back to their farmlands which had been sadly transformed into flood plains. These transplants now lived in indescribable squalor; slums of a thousand people per square kilometer. Cooking for 100 people was shared over three open gas flames along with one squat toilet for a public bathroom. Children filled the shadows yet their access to education was nonexistent. In the evenings, I would sleep on the floor at the only school in the slum, Jaago. Nearly all of the 560 students who attend Jaago come from parents who are climate refugees.

Now that I am back home I want to keep spreading the information about Jaago and climate refugees so I have built it into my portrait unit in my drawing and painting classes here at SPP. We started by learning about Bangladesh, Climate Change and Climate Refugees. We then focused on drawing/ painting portraits. Our final project was drawing the portrait of the students who attend Jaago rather than drawing themselves. These students at Jaago do not have an art program due to funds and do not have a photo of themselves. It took us four months to get the photos from Imran, a volunteer who sent them to us from Jaago.


Our final paintings were sent back over to the children. On the backside of the artwork will be the original photo. Our amazing SPP students suggested we write them a letter describing themselves and our surroundings to educate them about our culture. It was a great idea and SPP students put so much time and effort into each part of our project! We have laminated each of the drawings and paintings to protect the artwork from any pollution or weather that could be damaging. Imran (the volunteer at Jaago) said the students were so excited for the day when their artwork arrives!! I am really proud of our art students as they have been equally excited to create their artwork and have become so passionate about climate change and climate refugees.


The artwork has recently arrived and their students love it! I got tears in my eyes when I saw these photos and our SPP students are so proud to see their work in Bangladesh!!

– Ms. Kate Woolever-Martinez

This story was featured in an article in the Pioneer Press!

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Ms. Sarah Clark Selected for NSTA Fellowship

Six Minnesota Science Teachers Selected For Fellowship Program in Prestigious NSTA New Science Teacher Academy

The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), the largest professional organization in the world promoting excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all, in collaboration with The Dow Chemical Company; Lockheed Martin; the American Honda Foundation; and the Bayer USA Foundation, announced on January 16, 2014 that six out of the 200 science teachers chosen as Fellows in the 2013-2014 NSTA New Science Teacher Academy are from Minnesota. Selected from more than a thousand applications nationwide, the Fellows will participate in a host of science-related activities and professional learning opportunities designed to help promote quality science teaching, enhance teacher confidence and classroom excellence and improve teacher content knowledge. We are proud to announce that Ms. Sarah Clark, SPP Science Teacher is one of the selected Dow-NSTA Fellows.

Read the full Press Release on our website.

Ms. Clark with her AP Chemistry Class, dressed for success
Ms. Clark with her AP Chemistry Class – dressed for success
Her students recognize the value of W.O.R.L.D. (Work hard, Opportunity, Respect, Leadership, Decision-making)
Ms. Clark (far right) and her Physical Science students recognize the value of W.O.R.L.D. (Work hard, Opportunity, Respect, Leadership, Decision-making)

SPP Staff Ventures to China

St. Paul Prep staff members, Laurel Orman (Admissions and Marketing) and Andrea Schiebe (Special Projects and Communication) had the opportunity to teach ACT English preparation for 2 weeks this summer at Yali School in Changsha, China. Their goal was to prepare students for taking the ACT as well as to gain insight into the Chinese education system and daily life. Their hope is to bring their knowledge and experience back to SPP so as to better reach the Chinese student population at St. Paul Prep.

Both staff members found the experience to be valuable both personally and professionally. As first-time visitors to China, culture-shock was immediate. For Laurel, even walking around the city was a challenge. “I couldn’t understand the signs and advertisements, not to mention the different cultural norms for traffic.” In addition to experiencing and living in another culture, Laurel and Andrea developed a better understanding of the Chinese education system. Laurel explained that “in writing class, we focused a lot on thesis statements and paragraph structures. Because the languages are so fundamentally different, this structure that is second nature to many native-English speakers is something that was very challenging for some of the students to learn.”

Both Laurel and Andrea were very grateful to have the opportunity to travel to China.  Andrea reflected on the trip, “I am thankful for the opportunity I had to take part in this experience of teaching in China. It expanded my appreciation and sensitivity to a beautiful culture. I made wonderful relationships and beautiful memories with new friends abroad. I value the sincerity of those who reached out and helped me feel at ‘home,’ as I hope we are able to do for our students at SPP.”

Yali was founded by the Yale-China Association and has no affiliation with St. Paul Preparatory School or the Nacel International School System.

Andrea middle row left, Laurel middle row right

Meet our Faculty: Sharron Pelham

The teachers and staff members at St. Paul Preparatory share a love of cultures and education. We come from diverse backgrounds and share our unique talents and experiences with our school community. We truly care about our students and take joy in helping them reach their full potential.

Meet Sharron Pelham from the English Department.

Faculty Profile,  Sharron Pelham



  • Favorite movie:  Too many favorites, but one is “Room with a View.”
  • Favorite book:  Again, too many favorites, but I would have to list The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky and Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh.  Ask my AP Lit students and they can tell you of our weeks spent delving into the implicit meanings and complex neuroses found in Brideshead.
  • Favorite color:  Salmon
  • Favorite food:  Cheese Fondue

What’s something cool about English?

I could write a book here, but won’t…

What do you do when you’re not working at SPP?

I seem to never have time to read all of the books on my list, especially when I enjoy even more the reading again and again of my favorites.  I spend many wonderful hours with my two grandchildren, Seymour (3) and Ariadne (9 months).  I also am active in my church.

How did you spend your summer?

I traveled to visit relatives in Oklahoma and Michigan.  I also took a course in Bible and Culture at Regent College in Vancouver, B.C.

Where is the best place you’ve ever lived or visited and why?

I lived and taught in Brussels, Belgium for over 10 years.   My children were young there, and my heart alone knows the reasons why I love it more than any other place.   At all times of the day and night people from around the world come to sit and converse in the cafes on the Grand Place in the center of the city.  In the summer people spill out of the cafes to stand in the square while lights projected on the medieval guild halls splash color on the leaded glass windows of a high turret, then onto a golden statue balanced atop another hall, coming to rest briefly on an intricately carved doorway before soaring upward again to a balcony barely beneath the stars; the changing light keeping pace with the magnificent baroque music filling the space.

What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever done?

I can’t think of anything cooler than what I just wrote about Brussels, but one experience comes to mind:   going to the top of Mont Blanc in Chamonix, France and looking down from above the clouds at the birds fluttering beneath me.  In the midst of a hot summer day the temperatures plummeted half way up the mountain and hikers discarded their boots for skis before beginning their descent.

If you could give one piece of advice about life, what would it be?

Never settle down into someone else’s dream.  Keep beginning again with a new dream which you have discovered for yourself.

What’s something you’re planning to do this school year?

The school year is almost completed, and this summer I am first looking forward to the wedding of my son.  After the wedding in late June I’ll begin preparations for teaching Speech to a group of students from Turkey.  These are both new adventures for me which will fill my summer with new possibilities.

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and what would you do there?

Right now I’m missing Prague, and wish I could go there to stand on the Charles Bridge to watch the sun break through the fog and shine its light on the Hradcany Castle watching over the city from atop its high hill.

If you weren’t teaching, what job would you want?

I’ve always wanted to own a small local bookstore, but I seem to have missed that era.

Have you ever experienced culture shock? When and how did you deal with it?

I have experienced culture shock many times; the first time when I moved to Brussels with three small children and found all of my interpersonal skills meant nothing in such a different culture. My home town in Oklahoma had taught me to smile at everyone; this only made the Belgians think I was not very intelligent.

Most recently culture shock settled in on me again when I went alone in the summer to teach in Shanghai and had only been to Asia once before for three weeks and had been with other Americans.  This time in Shanghai I found myself overwhelmed by all of the people crowding the streets into the late night talking in a language I could not even begin to decipher.  I coped initially by finding a Costa coffee shop close to my hotel where I went each night to sit in a corner and read The Great Gatsby while eating a chicken sandwich and drinking an iced coffee.  I went back to the same coffee shop each morning to buy an iced coffee to drink in the morning heat as I walked the four blocks to my class midst throngs of people, cars, bicycles all pressing in on me and each other.  Somehow that bit of cool familiarity helped me to feel less alienated and less alone, especially when the people working behind the counter at the coffee shop began to recognize me and practice their English with me in the morning and in the evening.

I recommend this “finding a place to return and make familiar” to others as a way to traverse the initial strangeness of a new culture.

Learn more about Ms. Pelham and St. Paul Preparatory Faculty and Staff.

Meet Our Staff: Lee Miller

The teachers and staff members at St. Paul Preparatory share a love of cultures and education. We come from diverse backgrounds and share our unique talents and experiences with our school community. We truly care about our students and take joy in helping them reach their full potential.

Meet Lee Miller from Administration.

Staff Profile,  Lee Miller



  • Favorite movie: Robin Hood Prince of Thieves
  • Favorite book: Game of Thrones by George RR Martin, Little Women by Louise May Alcott.
  • Favorite color: Purple
  • Favorite food: Chocolate Ice cream

What do you do for St. Paul Prep?

I work with the database to make student data easily available when teachers and administrators need information.

What do you do when you’re not working at SPP?

Hang out with my husband, Jonathan. Play with my dog and cats. Run, read, play video games, work with a church youth group.

How did you spend your summer?

Moving to St. Paul!

Where is the best place you’ve ever lived or visited and why?

Key West, FL. It was so relaxed and there were a lot of random animals around.

If you could give one piece of advice about life, what would it be?

Believe none of what you hear and only half of what you see.

What do you find fascinating?

Learning about the different beliefs that people have and why they have them.

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and what would you do there?

Key West with my family.

If you weren’t teaching, what job would you want?

Actress or cook.

Have you ever experienced culture shock? When and how did you deal with it?

In college. I went to a very diverse college where I was the minority. I got to meet a lot of people and make new friends!

Tell me something interesting or unique about yourself.

I’m a published writer. I have a dog, two cats and a snake. I’m also a certified dog trainer/groomer (although I’m not good at it!)

Learn more about Ms. Miller and St. Paul Preparatory Faculty and Staff.