Treasuring a Heritage Area School Teaches the Many Aspects of Chinese Culture

Article excerpt

Byline: Michael Wamble Daily Herald Staff Writer

Dan Robertson wasn't like the other third-graders in his classroom.

Looking back on his school days, the Naperville man says he understands why he got so much attention.

"I was the only Caucasian and the only adult in the class," he says. "I stuck out like a sore thumb."

At the time, Robertson, 45, was a most unusual student at the Naperville-based Ray Chinese School, where the majority of pupils are younger and of Chinese heritage.

Yet, he's just the type of student the principal and board chairwoman would like to see more of.

For seven years, the mission of Ray Chinese School has been to offer resources for families whose members have roots in China.

The school, which started its spring term Jan. 7, holds classes Saturday mornings at Kennedy Junior High in Lisle.

The eclectic selection of programs include classes in Chinese brush painting and adult dance courses.

But while the cultural courses help spotlight participants' ethnic identity, language instruction is where the school could make a major impact in the larger community.

Chairwoman Chris Zhang says the school is perfectly positioned to provide classes for non-Chinese-speaking people interested in learning the language for general use or, more importantly, for business.

That's exactly what first drew Robertson to the school.

He came to Ray to take a refresher course in Chinese that he had learned at a suburban school to help in his business. But when he arrived, he found his language skills were more than a bit rusty.

"I was placed into the third grade," he said.

And even then, he had to take the class twice.

Now Robertson - also known by his Chinese name as Luo Dan - leads tours into China that study the history and culture of tea. …