FARMINGTON — Fed up with the public education system in the U.S., a Kirtland mother and daughter have found a new school on the other side of the globe. Marsha Peter and her daughter, Mckenzy, recently finished their first year at Dalian American International School in Dalian, China. Marsha Peter teaches English as Second Language classes at the school, and her daughter wrapped up her freshman year of high school there.
"You do what you have to do to get your child the best education," Marsha Peter said. "I felt like my daughter deserved a better education, so I started to look for alternatives."
The duo are in the middle of a three-week trip back to the U.S. before they return to Dalian.
Marsha Peter spent 17 years with the Central Consolidated and Farmington Municipal school districts, working as a teacher at Kirtland Middle School and as an intervention coordinator for the Farmington district. Following a stint with Presbyterian Medical Services, she decided to look at teaching positions internationally after hearing positive experiences from friends in South Korea.
She filled out paperwork with an international recruiting agency and was offered a position at the Dalian school, one of her top five choices.
"It actually wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be," Marsha Peter said of the move.
Her husband, Arnold, stayed in the couple's Kirtland home while Marsha and Mckenzy Peter packed up their belongings and got on a plane.
"I was very eager and very excited. I was just ready to start my new life over there," said Mckenzy Peter. "It was actually pretty easy once we were over there. There's the shock of 'Holy crap, I'm in China,' but people on campus just accepted me."
Dalian American International School has an enrollment of about 450 students for kindergarten through 12th grade. Marsha Peter said it was wonderful to get into teaching again. She will be the school's ESL coordinator starting this fall.
"It gave me an opportunity to do what I love and not have to fight the public schools system in this country," she said.
Both the mother and daughter said the language gap has been the most difficult part of living in China, and they are still learning the Mandarin dialect. Mckenzy Peter also was surprised by the difficulty of her classes.
"I wasn't a student that needed to study before, but when I got here, I had to," she said. "It was a reality check for me, I wasn't one of the smartest kids anymore."
The teen said she enjoys local foods, like dumplings, and taking the train with her friends to go shopping or to visit one of the country's amusement parks.
Her mother has one year left in her contract with the school but hopes to keep teaching overseas until Mckenzy Peter graduates from high school in three years.
"It's what I wanted. Excitement and adventure," Mckenzy Peter said.