Have you been wondering where Ms. Lai has been? She joined the St. Luke’s faculty in 2017 as an Upper School Mandarin teacher, but she has not been at SLS all year.
Over the summer, Ms. Lai was traveling in China and had to renew a portion of her visa since she would be visiting the country again in March 2019 for the SLS China trip. Unexpectedly, Ms. Lai’s visa was denied and she was restricted from traveling back to the United States.
“It was a total fluke and not the fault of Ms. Lai nor the school in any way,” says Mr. Shee, the Head of the World Language Department.
Fortunately, Ms. Lai and the World Language Department came up with a solution. Rather than hiring a temporary substitute teacher, they decided that while Ms. Lai was in China, she would still teach her classes via Skype.
“Ms. Lai is a master teacher, she went above and ‘Beyoncé’ by doing the work she did. Not only did Ms. Lai have to overcome a 13-hour time difference but she had to create a lot of extra material so that the kids would have a seamless and rich experience,” Mr. Shee adds.
In addition to Skype, Ms. Lai developed a variety of online resources to use with her classes. Luckily, Mr. Foley, Mr. Fendelman, Mr. Bavone, and Ms. Mathrani generously offered up their free periods to sit in on her Mandarin classes to make sure that the technology ran smoothly.
“While this has been a challenging international experience, everyone did a fantastic job in coming together to make sure that the students came first. We also wanted to make sure that upon Ms. Lai’s arrival, that there would be a seamless transition,” Mr. Shee notes.
Chris Ayoub, a senior in Ms. Lai’s Honors Mandarin Chinese V class, says, “While learning new material is more efficient face to face, Ms. Lai has been really great. She is always available to help me, but I cannot imagine how tiresome the time-difference must be for her.”
Devon Schiff, a sophomore in Ms. Lai’s advisory, comments, “It is going to be a bit challenging when Ms. Lai returns because she has missed almost half of the year, but we are excited to welcome her back. I just feel so bad that she has been gone.”
Luckily, Ms. Birinyi, an English teacher who is new to SLS this year, is Ms. Lai’s co-advisor and has been able to run advisory meetings every week for the girls.
Not only has Ms. Lai been prevented from seeing her students and her advisees for the past few months, but she has been away from her husband, friends, and family as well.
Ms. Lai is officially returning to the hilltop this coming Monday, December 10th. The St. Luke’s Community is looking forward to welcoming her back!
Correction: This article was originally published on Tuesday, December 4th and falsely stated that Ms. Lai was in China to organize visas for the SLS students who would be attending the March trip.