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Part of what makes Xi’An International school the school unique is the mix of personalities, backgrounds, and life experiences of our teachers.

In this series of articles, we want to explore into the backgrounds of our teachers that helps make XIS special.

DeAnnHelland

There have been a number of new hires this school year, and in this article, we focus on the last new teacher, DeAnn Helland. And while she is new to XIS, she is not new to China. Far from it.

From the age of 12, DeAnn knew she wanted to be a teacher. Once she advanced into college, she studied education. After a brief stint teaching in the Dominican Republic, she found an opportunity to teach in China. She has taught in Chinese public schools for decades, and this is the first time she has taught in an international school.

“China keeps transforming itself, over and over again…when I first started teaching in China, my students didn’t even know what a computer was. Now they carry around (that kind of) technology in their hands.”

The teachers who guided her path: 

DeAnn fondly thinks back to various teachers in her younger years. More than a few let a young and eager DeAnn be a teacher’s helper once she finished her own work. 

Then there was Mrs. Jewell, her senior English teacher. “She really really got me prepped for college and college work. She had a nickname, which she wore proudly, that she was “the Cruel Jewell.”

DeAnn says of her, “She said, ‘I’m going to be sitting on your shoulder in your future as you write making sure that you are doing it well.’ So even now I still think there’s time when I think I still have ‘Cruel Jewell’ on my shoulder.” 

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A love for travel, and the Stockholm connection. 

Like most people, DeAnn has a number of interests. One of her strongest interests is traveling.  

“I’ve traveled a lot throughout China. I’ve been very thankful for that opportunity of visited many, many places. I lived in Yunnan for nine years. And so Yunnan is very rich in ethnic minorities and beautiful places. And Sichuan as well.

“One of my favorite cities in the world is Stockholm, Sweden. And I’ve been there several times because in high school we had a foreign exchange student from Sweden. So I’ve been able to go visit her and her family many times. It’s a beautiful city right on the water. Prague is on my bucket list.” 

*Incidentally, Alyse Johnson, who was XIS’s art teacher until 2020, relocated to Stockholm, Sweden after getting married in 2021.  

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“Traveling is my hobby. One of my hobbies that I love. “A friend introduced me to…going on cruises. So I went to Alaska last year. Absolutely amazing. Then she was going on another cruise last fall…I ended up going with her and we went up to Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and Quebec.” 

On the lighter side of things: 

Many of our teachers, by nature of being Gen X and Millennials, have fandoms in things like ‘Harry Potter’,‘Star Wars’, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). For DeAnn, though, not so much. 

“So when the first (Star Wars) movie came out, my brother disappointed me in that he promised he would take me to the first Star Wars movie and he never did. I’m still traumatized by that.” De Ann says tongue-in-cheek. 

Some favorite books: 

 “Well, just kind of in this last year, just for whatever reason, I’ve read several historical fiction (books). Some of them have been loosely based on real people, but just the World War II era, and the Blitz in England, and Polish-German, the Jewish population, and just how people escaped, or the sacrifices that were made by families and parents during World War II. So that’s kind of been a genre I’ve been in this last year. 

We are glad to have Miss DeAnn and her years of experience in English education. Perhaps in years to come, some of our students will say, “whenever I write, I have Ms. Helland on my shoulder reminding me of what to do!”