by GUSTAVO ESPINOZA
Cerritos High history teacher Steven Armstrong was fully aware of what sort of new world he was entering when he crossed into Hong Kong to teach in August of 1982. After decades of isolation, the most exotic part of the Far East had opened.
“Everyday, living in China was fascinating and interesting as there was always something to do,” Armstrong said.
Strictly in the country to teach, Armstrong was one of few Americans who had the privilege to educate in China at the time. As it turns out, the now-veteran teacher has taught more than just social studies.
China was, and still is, a Communist-ran government; Due to the recent opening of its foreign borders in the early 1980s, it was slowly beginning its transition from third world country to “second world.” As a result, “living standards were really different in China as opposed to other countries.” What one would have imagined the country to look like at the time, was likely distorted by the history we remember learning about the unique nation.
Armstrong was permitted to teach at a local university in Hong Kong where he encountered all sorts of students. His intuition told him that it would be a very different experience from teaching in an American high school or middle school. Some of the isolationist policies the Chinese government had placed on the country had then been lifted. “The Chinese people were hungry, the most, for knowledge and anything from the outside world,” Armstrong said. He was essentially their gateway into the outside world.
However, teaching in a third world country did come with its setbacks. “The biggest obstacle for me to overcome in China was the lack of teaching materials,” Armstrong said. A severe lack of textbooks and new technology in the teaching institutions of China was major. As soon as it was possible, Armstrong formulated a way to get textbooks from the U.S. into Chinese schools. His great prowess in teaching helped to provide the Chinese people with much knowledge, until his eventual departure to Japan where he would go on to teach for 11 years.