Like most AYCers, Anitra Saddler wanted a new experience. “I chose China as a way to branch out into the world,” she says. “I wanted to experience life that was different from my own.” She sought the exact opposite of her small town in Minnesota: Changsha, in Hunan Province, renowned for its spicy food and warm climate. “Here in China it has been a different beat I have to move to and learn how to adapt to day to day,” says Anitra. “I am sometimes frustrated with the new change of pace; however, I do not regret it for one moment.”

For many teachers, Anitra’s classes would have posed a huge problem. She encountered the same problems all foreign teachers have in China: huge class sizes of up to 40 kids, in her case all girls, and her students entered the room believing they could walk all over a foreign teacher. But for Anitra, who comes from a large family with many younger siblings, controlling her classroom has never been an issue. “The students are so used to being drilled by their teachers that they believe foreign teachers are the “easy fun class” and will try not to follow the rules,” Anitra says. “It is very important for them to know you want to have fun, but you are their teacher and rules MUST be followed.”

Another challenge Anitra faces is that she teaches a mixture classroom: half her students spoke English fluently, while half knew no English at all. “At times making lesson plans is a bit difficult due to the wide range of English abilities. However, I love the challenge! This gives me the opportunity to use multiple strategies, learning aids, and so on to engage the students.” Anitra’s effort pays off: she loves her students and her students love her, constantly approaching her for hugs and presenting her with gifts. But she doesn’t get a swelled head; instead, she is reflective. “The older children are more difficult to bring them out of their comfort zone. They are afraid of losing face!!! The younger children most of the time can’t get enough. Making the class fun and new, keeps everyone interested and willing to explore outside the norm.”