China: Guimei Zhang

The children gave me the honor of being a teacher, the consolation of being a mother, and the happiness of being a woman. My life is in my teaching.

— Guimei Zhang

Zhang Guimei is a teacher working in a destitute ethnic minority region. Regardless of the difficulties and sorrow of losing her husband and being ill herself, she has brought up and educated 54 orphans. Her students have not quit school and neither have they suffered from poverty.

Zhang Guimeng, born 1957 in Mudanjiang City, Helongjiang Province, works in Minzhu Middle School, Hua Ping County, Yunnan Provice, in a multi-ethnic mountainous area. In her 29 years of work, she has been awarded numerous honors; the one she cherishes most is the common title: a people’s teacher. When she was 38, Zhang’s husband died of stomach cancer. Zhang herself had a tumor, which needed two operations within the year. Despite illness and pain, Zhang continued her work for the welfare of children. She has donated most of the money she earns or gets for medical treatment to poor children, orphans and schools in a rehabilitation village; as a result her savings are less than 3000 yuan. As a teacher, Zhang loves the children like they were her own. She says, “Love is the key for heart-to-heart communication between teachers and students.” Since all her students come from cultural minority groups and their level is lower than average, she has to work harder for longer hours to design teaching methods that can arouse their motivation to learn. Her efforts are well rewarded with their good results in public examinations. In 1999, a Chinese American organization, “Mothers’ Club”, wanted to build an orphanage in Lijiang area, Yunnan Province. Hearing about Zhang, they decided to have the orphanage built in Hua Ping County, insisting that Zhang be the director. Since March 2001, Zhang has taken this second job, voluntarily becoming the “mother” of 54 children. Everyday, after teaching in Minzhu Middle School, she travels from the west side to the east side to her children in the Hua Ping Children’s Home. Now Zhang faces a third operation for her tumor, and pain tortures her every day. But she chooses to work harder. She says, “My life is in my teaching.”

Minzhu Middle School Hua Ping Children’s Home