This summer, I made my fourth trip to Guatemala.  Dr. Susan Fernandez and I brought eight Lander students to Antigua, Guatemala to teach with the Phoenix Projects schools for two weeks.  The Phoenix Projects have schools and employment programs that serve the indigenous population of Central and South America.  Our trip website explains more about the purpose of our trip, if you’re interested.  As always, I took a lot of pictures.















This time, we were there during Mother’s Day (Dia de Las Madres).  The school had a big celebration where the kids dressed up in their best traditional clothing, sang songs, and performed dances in front of their mothers.






























After the performance, the mothers “competed” in different games to earn small prizes (usually some sort of food).  Everyone came home with a prize of some sort (and a smile).


















































It was incredibly sweet to watch these strong women and the connection they have with their children.













Why am I getting in this race?

I strongly believe in the vision statement of the district, which is “to empower today’s students for tomorrow’s opportunities.”  Education is not just about the here and now.  It’s about the future.  We, as educators, have to peer into the future and forecast what it will look like and ensure that we are providing educational experiences that will best prepare them for that future.    I feel like I have a unique set of skills, experiences, and expertise that can help this district achieve that vision.

A few quick facts about me:

  • Product of Greenwood 50 schools
    • Graduated GHS in 1993
  • Former elementary teacher in schools (3 years)
    • Served in Title 1 school districts
    • I know the joys, frustrations, and pressures of being a teacher
  • As an associate professor and educational researcher, I stay up to date with the latest developments in educational research, policy, and practice.
  • Active in statewide education policy and advocacy.
  • The impact of global competition is a big influence on educational policy decisions.  I have travelled in, taught, and/or studied in several different continents
    • Taught elementary school in Guatemala (2 summers; 2008 & 2010)
    • Led a study tour of universities and high schools in S. Korea & China this summer and learned about their educational philosophies and practices (2012)
  • Experienced in teaching ESOL
    • Taught ESL in Guatemala as well as a summer institute for visiting S. Korean students (2012)
    • I speak Spanish

Ultimately, I know that we have many serious issues to tackle over the next few years.  If elected to the Board, I look forward to being a voice of the community in advancing education in Greenwood from a policy and strategic standpoint.   I believe that schools are a trust of the community and they work best when the community is informed and invested in their success.


Can I vote for Lee Vartanian?

If you are a registered voter in Greenwood County and are zoned for Seat 9, you can.

How can I vote for Lee Vartanian?

No candidate for Seat 9 emerged before the registration deadline.   Therefore, Seat 9 will be decided by “write-in” voting.  Therefore, if you are zoned for Seat 9, you will be offered the opportunity to “write-in” (i.e. type in) a candidate.  To vote for me, type in “Lee Vartanian”.

Am I zoned to vote for Seat 9?

Seat 9 represents the area spanning the Eastern part of Grace St./ Hwy 254 from around Durst Ave. to the Creekside Subdivision.  It includes the following neighborhoods and subdivisions on the eastern side of Hwy 254:

Off Hwy 254:

  • Woodcrest
  • Rock Creek
  • Belle Meade
  • Cherokee Hills
  • Wellington Green
  • Creekside

Deadfall Road East (airport side):

  • Beech Run & Beech Lake
  • Windtree
  • Hillbrook

Haltiwanger Rd:

  • Winding Creek
  • Greenbriar
  • Rock Knoll
  • Laurel Ridge

Laurel Ave. E. (East of Grace St.)

  • Orchard Park
  • Leyland Place
  • Karlie Hill

Northside Dr. E. (East of Hwy. 254)

  • Georgetown Apts
  • Avalon

If you are unsure of where you are zoned, you can contact me at and I will help you find your zone.

How do I “write-in”?

With the electronic voting machines, you will come to a screen for Greenwood 50 Board of Trustees Seat 9.  There will be a button that says “WRITE IN”, click that button and type my name: “LEE VARTANIAN” and click “submit”.

What if I forget how to spell your name?

That’s fine!  Do the best you can.  I have submitted a list of possible misspellings to the Voter’s Registration office.   They are expecting spelling errors.  Simple misspellings will not count against me.  So, give it your best shot.  Start with “V” and go from there!


I’m still processing all that I learned from my month-long tour of Korea and China.  I was impressed by the speed of development, commitment to education and advancement, and the generosity of the people.  I also learned a lot just by eating.  This may sound crazy, but it’s true.  Eating in Asia is not just about eating with chopsticks.  It’s about a shared experience—everyone eating together, equally joined in the effort, with plenty of food to go around.  In the U.S., when we dine at a restaurant, we each order a specific dish and it is “ours.”  This creates a sort of separation at the dinner table that I had never thought of before.

Before my Asian trip, I had read a lot about the influence of Confucius, and his emphasis on harmony in social relationships.   Travelling with a group of 10 very different individuals is a risky endeavor where problems can arise easily that disrupt the harmony the group.  However, our group maintained a consistently positive rapport throughout the trip that honestly surprised me.   I feel strongly that, if we had eaten Western-style, we would’ve been more likely to have disagreements, resentments, and misunderstandings.  By eating Asian-style, each meal was another opportunity to feed each other, look after one another’s needs, and remind ourselves that we were being nourished equally and bountifully.

(Photo: regional chicken dish from Chuncheon, Korea.  Mr. Kim is stirring the chicken for the rest of us)


After spending two days in Xi’an, China’s ancient capital, visiting the famous Terra Cotta Warriors (above) and other historic sites, we took the sleeper train to our final destination, Beijing.

The sun was setting as we set out from Xi’an. You can barely see a small sliver of the sun in the middle of the pic below just above the tree line:



After a good night’s rest on the train, we reached Beijing at 8:00. Sweaty and without bathing for at least a day, we went straight to Tiananman Square and the Forbidden City. I was really looking forward to Tiananman Square. For some reason the student protests of 1989 have always stuck with me.



Next to Tiananmen Square is the Forbidden City. Ivy and I are standing in front of the entrance of the Forbidden City at the end of Tiananmen Square.


The scale of the Forbidden City is bigger than anything we’ve seen so far. After entering the front gates, we saw what I like to call the “Forbidden Basketball Court:”


After the Forbidden City, we ate at a lovely restaurant that specialized in a local soup:


With the help of our SNU representative, future visiting scholar and Bearcat, Lu Xi, we presented my wife, Ivy, with a delicious birthday cake (and “empress” crown).


She was very happy and demonstrated her Tai Chi moves for us:



We’ve had an amazing time at Shanghai Normal University. The staff and students have gone out of their way to show us a wonderful welcome and give us insight into what life is like for a college student at their university. Xing Xing, below, is one of the student leaders (who just graduated and will be going to the University of Utah in the fall) who has been with us for most of our time at SNU. She’s always wearing a smile:


On Monday and Tuesday, we took a detailed tour at both of SNU’s campuses. We took part in an interactive Tai Chi demonstration. After a short game of tag (haven’t played that in YEARS), the SNU Tai Chi club gave us a demonstration and then showed us a pattern of moves. Ivy’s demonstrating the “respect” pose with her buddy:


After we learned our moves, the SNU students asked us to share a game with them. I suggested Duck Duck Goose; others suggested Red Rover. It was a hit:



We also met with the Calligraphy club. They demonstrated some of their techniques and allowed us to experiment with writing Chinese words in calligraphy:


SNU also has a seal cutting club. Seals are ancient Chinese signature stamps (those small red square stamps at the bottom of old documents). Just like all the other demonstrations, this one was participatory. They gave us blocks and allowed us to carve our own names, words, symbols, etc. in calligraphy into the stones. At the end, they presented each of us with our names, carved into an intricately engraved seal. Very impressive.


The Puppet club also put on an amazing performance with their handmade puppets (and let us play too, of course):


We also toured their extensive “specimen” room, filled with furry animals of all sorts. I was particularly impressed with the collection of Asian birds as well as this smiling wolf:


Today, we met with student leaders at Shanghai Normal University. After a discussion about student activities on campus, a student mentioned being a fan of the Lakers. It was sort of a formal setting, with people talking into mics and such. I raised my hand and said,”I’ve been away from the States for 3 weeks and haven’t been keeping up with any sports. What’s going on in the NBA finals? Are the Lakers still in it?”

She smiled and said, “Yes, but they’re in trouble. They’re down 3 games to 1 and they’re playing right now. Just one second please…” She looked down at her cell phone, smiled, and said, “Ah yes, the Lakers are up 64-62.”

Unfortunately for her, the Lakers lost. However, she told me something that blew my mind. She said that the Lakers are really big in China. According to her, they have 500 million fans.

The scale of the population in China is staggering to the mind. It’s hard to comprehend 1.3 billion people. But, 500 million Lakers fans? That’s almost twice the entire US population.

I have no way of knowing if this figure is correct. It probably isn’t, but somehow I find myself fascinated (scared?) by contemplating 500 million Lakers fans.

During our stay at the Buddhist temple, a group of photographers/journalists documented our experience for their travel website.

You can see their article, featuring pictures of us, here:

Yesterday we visited the Pudong district of Shanghai and went up the famous TV Tower of Shanghai. It’s Shanghai’s most recognizable modern monument (like Seattle’s Space Needle or St. Louis’ Gateway Arch). It’s the building to the left in this night pic:


They have a “sky walk.” This is me sky-walking:


On our way down, Joshua and I took the wrong elevator and had to wait in a very crammed (and sometimes aggressive) line. I felt something touching my arm. I turned around and it was a toddler and his mom. We exchanged what pleasantries we knew in each other’s language and it really served to lighten up the mood. I snapped a pic. It’s my favorite pic so far on this trip. Captures the moment beautifully:


Today was our first day at Shanghai Normal University. The campus is beautiful and looks a lot like the archetypal American college (big trees, lawns for students to lounge and throw frisbee on). After receiving a wonderful welcome by the Vice President of University and the Dean of International Programs, we were taken on a tour of the campus.

SNU has a large and reputable teacher education department. In fact, today we learned that, in 1948 this university began as a teacher’s college and expanded into offering other degrees. On our walk we visited the :


We walked into the modern 5 story building and walked through a dark hallway on the top floor. We passed one class that was in session but did not go in. I was hoping we could meet with someone from the department for a quick chat. Fortunately, we found Mr. Shu Yi Lu, Director of the Education College Experimentation Center, in one of their microteaching classrooms:


He demonstrated a “smart” microteaching classroom. Microteaching is a strategy, developed by Dwight Allen (who happened to be my doctoral mentor and dissertation chair) over 40 years ago, where teachers videotape a short lesson (in front of students or their peers), watch and reflect on the video, and receive feedback from their teaching from their peers and/or their instructor.

Mr. Lu demonstrated the software, developed at SNU, that teacher educators use for the microteaching sessions.


The top 2 panels above are the video of the student teaching (upper Left) as well as a video of the class (upper right). The space below is reserved for a powerpoint.


Mr. Lu said that all of the microteaching videos are available for any student at the university to observe and comment on. I was surprised by this because we treat these types of things in such a confidential manner in our country. Many of my students are embarrassed by how they talk or would be uncomfortable having a “public” videotaped lesson that was not one of their best (some of my students are still too shy to answer a question in class!).

However, I was attracted to the idea of making these videos open for everyone to see. It sort of sends the message of “So what? Why do we need to be ashamed or prohibitively private with how we grow as teachers?” We all have space to grow and improve.

In its highest light, teaching is a profession of continual growth, exploration, and enhancement. In order to improve, we must be open to criticism and insight from all sides. This takes courage and a willingness to be open to discomfort.

I’m excited to be bringing back new ideas to my own courses. This was the second experience this week where I realized I need to add more opportunities for my students to demonstrate their teaching in front of others and be open to the possibility of open and honest critique. Thank you China!

Seeing oneself on video is a humbling experience but also a powerful and enlightening one.

Introducing 3 future Bearcats (from Sanda University in Shanghai) who will be joining us in the fall!


Sophie, Claire, & Lily (between Lee and Boyoung)