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China Tripper - Arlington woman heads to Beijing for teacher conference

Arlington resident Rita Hunter works with a pair of four-year-old pre-school students in her Liberty Elementary School classroom in Marysville. From left are Hunter, Citlali Daza and Aaron Wilmot. -
Arlington resident Rita Hunter works with a pair of four-year-old pre-school students in her Liberty Elementary School classroom in Marysville. From left are Hunter, Citlali Daza and Aaron Wilmot.
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MARYSVILLE A local teacher will be traveling to Beijing this week as part of the 2006 U.S.-China Joint Education Conference.
Rita Hunter is a veteran of three decades in the classroom and was selected for the People to People Ambassador program specializing in early childhood education. She works with special needs children and has amassed a reputation over the years for her knack with making a connection with kids needing help coming out of their shells.
Now Hunter will be putting the touch on the worlds largest country, as China emerges from decades of economics and cultural isolation. The conference will allow teachers to share tips and find out what works in their respective countries.
I thought it was a good opportunity to have an effect on this end, Hunter said. I just want to see and to listen to what other people are doing.
Teachers from around the country were selected to focus on educating children ages three through 12. The six-day conference will give professionals the opportunity to exchange tips and strategies and get to know how their countries differ and what they share.
Hunter is an Arlington resident who has been a teacher for 20 years in the Marysville School District, after spending a dozen years as a teaching assistant in the Mukilteo and Stanwood school systems. Its not the first time she has been abroad; Hunter was a military brat who spent four of her teenage years in Europe and has also traveled to the Bahamas. She doesnt know why she was selected last year for the conference but thinks she will enjoy it.
I think just watching children gain skills; just watching the changes they make and facilitating that is rewarding to me, Hunter explained.
Hunter works with children diagnosed with learning problems early on; much of the time a little work can get those students up to speed and keep them in mainstream classes. She also visits homes to see how children do there and to gauge the household environment and give parents help as well.
Because thats where you can make huge changes, Hunter said. Every home has a story and you learn very quickly where children are coming from.
She has been at Liberty Elementary School for most of her tenure after 18 months at Tulalip Elementary School. The brick building at 10th Street and 47th Avenue is home to her.
Its the oldest elementary but I think its very strong, Hunter said. We just have a terrific staff. It seems that whenever we are trying to start something new they are always onboard and willing to go that extra mile.
Heidi Johnsen was the former Liberty principal and worked with Hunter for three years. She said that last quote could apply to Hunter herself.
She truly from her heart cares about the kids and her families, Johnsen said. Shes such a relationship person. Weve had educational assistants retire and want to come back and work with her.
The youngsters gravitate to the grandmotherly woman, who has a knack for engaging the younger set to stay on task. Every year Hunter has student teaching assistants from Maryville-Pilchuck High School help her and they are all big fans as well, according to Johnsen.
She stands out because she has high expectations for her students as preschoolers but she maintains the emotional needs of preschoolers, Johnsen said.

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