Founder & Recruitment Manager: Chris Thomas
Utilizing his fluent Mandarin and years of teaching & working in China, Chris founded Middle Kingdom Group in order to help share the ‘China dream’ with other graduates from the West. Building on his recruitment experience for the Welsh Government and time spent as a Project Manager in Shanghai, Chris began Middle Kingdom as the bridge between the needs of Chinese schools and companies and the increasing numbers of Western graduates like himself who were looking to combine a meaningful working experience with a post-university wanderlust. His direct experience as a foreigner working and living in China and the extensive networks established since arriving in 2008 means he’s acutely in touch with the needs of MK’s program participants, and keeps in constant touch with developments on the ground, as an example of the personal touch which sets Middle Kingdom apart.
Co-Founder & Beijing Manager: Sam Van Damme
With extensive experience as a management consultant and a fluency in six languages, Sam’s international background within recruitment and international exchange give him a solid grounding in understanding the needs of program participants both before and during their time in China. Moreover, a Ph.D in educational policy (Xiamen University & University College Dublin), and lecturing roles in various Beijing universities means he is amongst the foremost experts in the exchanges between the education systems of China and the Western world. His experience of various cities in Mainland China, as a professional and a visiting scholar, gives him a valuable insight into the variety of working experiences available in China. With an ever-improving Mandarin level, he is also acutely aware of the joys and pains of tackling the Chinese language!
TEFL Guru: Barnaby Kent
“After finishing a degree in Buddhist philosophy and a CELTA course in 2007, I came to China to teach English, learn Chinese, and practise Kung Fu; I haven’t stopped since. I can still remember being spellbound as a child by the power and elegance of both Chinese calligraphy and Kung Fu in films, I thought coming to China was a must. Over the last five and a half years I’ve been extremely busy. In addition to studying Chinese and martial arts at Xiamen University, I helped set up, manage and teach in an English training school realising a passion for motivating Chinese students to improve their English by expressing their own opinions, challenging their preconceptions, and having fun. I’ve also designed and taught courses for Chinese students to study Western Philosophy, Critical Thinking, and Debating and Public Speaking. I now live in Nanning, where I teach English and study traditional Yang style Tai Chi with Grandmaster Yan Xiu Han, vice-chairman of the Guangxi Province Martial Arts Association and lineage holder of Yang style Tai Chi. Each new semester, I look forward to working with Middle Kingdom Teachers in passing on what teaching and cultural knowledge I can to teachers who are new to China.”
UK Representative: Emily Reynolds
Emily first went out to China through Middle Kingdom Teachers in 2012, and worked at Xiangtan Number 2 Middle School. She spent an amazing 10 months there, teaching at the school as well as a lot of activities in her city, and travels through Southeast Asia during the holidays. Upon returning to the UK she began working in the Human Resources sector and at the same time working with MKT to let more and more people around the UK know about the potential that awaits people out in China. Catch her at a university campus near you soon!
Ireland Representative: Sidi Wang
With two years of experience working as a Brand Manager and Cross-Cultural Global Internship Vice-President in AIESEC (the biggest youth-run organisation in the world), Sidi joined MKT as Ireland Representative in the summer of 2014. An Economics & Finance major at University College Dublin, Sidi’s first foray into the world of teaching was during an incredible stint as a teacher of English and Culture in Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine, which gave her the feeling of being a language teacher in a completely different cultural environment. Meanwhile, her experience as an international student in Dublin and on exchange in Queensland, Australia, gives her first-hand insight into how it feels to be a cultural ambassador, far away from her native country. Having been living outside China for almost three years, Sidi is always travelling and actively taking part in various volunteering activities, which gives her a good understanding of western culture and society. She is very enthusiastic about working with MKT and helping build the bridge between East and West.
North America Representative: Mark Rittmer
Mark’s journey to China began in 2008 when he toured the country after having graduated from university. He instantly fell in love with the country, its people, and the vibrancy of the rapid change occurring there. Just a few months after that he relocated there in order to teach English and study Chinese in the hopes of broadening his career prospects and experiencing an adventure. Years later and now back in the US after having gained extensive knowledge and experience of Chinese culture, he has the competency and passion to assist his fellow Americans in all aspects of adjusting to life in China. With a firm grasp on the language, and years spent working both as an instructor and business consultant, Mark understands the rewards and challenges in taking the amazing step into an ever-expanding and diverse cultural setting.
Partner Schools Coordinator, China: Lany Li
Lany has spent two decades working in foreign affairs and is General Manager of Lanhu Cultural Exchange Center, which is licensed by the State Bureau of Foreign Experts to cooperate in the placement of foreign teachers. Concurrently, she is also Manager of the International Exchange Center of Xiangtan University and was awarded the National Prize for great contribution in her field by the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs in 2008, and regional prizes by Hunan Provincial Government in 2007. As of 2013 she has played an integral part in the China experience of over 800 foreign experts and graduates from the West. With a famously personal touch, she has established lasting friendships with many teachers who have taught through her over the years. She is widely respected throughout her home province of Hunan, and spends her time visiting the various partner schools to ensure year-on-year high quality.
Schools & Internships Coordinator (Fujian Province): Jeanie Shee
With 10 years of experience working in the corporate training field and years of cooperation with international groups, Jeanie is General Manager of Times Cheng Yi Education Consultancy. Through Communication and Corporate Training, she has become aware of companies’ need for foreign interns to share their knowledge and western mindset, and in this way has built up a large network of affiliate companies. Through her connections with the world of language training, she also works closely with schools and universities who recruit foreign language teachers.
Campus Ambassador (MA): Cherry Huang
Cherry is a student at Smith College (Massachusetts, USA) majoring in Economics and Psychology. She’s a Xiamen native, and a graduate of Xiamen Foreign Language School. She is excited about being part of Middle Kingdom because of its ethos and the worthwhile opportunities the programs provide. She hopes to not only help passionate students find a placement to match but also to bring awareness to the experiences of working in China. She also hope to spread the liberal arts spirit further in China. Cherry loves photography, traveling, movies, coffee, gourmet food, and trying new things that life can offer.
US Representative (Kansas): Jay Timmerman
It was actually Middle Kingdom Group that initially brought me to China, resulting in an incredible year teaching English at a university. The organization made the process seamless and trustworthy for me from the outset. I was subsequently given the opportunity to work for this great company as a representative back in America; I look forward to building relationships with future teachers and those looking for their own China experience. I’m originally from the midwest region and I graduated from Kansas State University with a Business Administration degree. I couldn’t have picked a better step for my business career than to come to China, for the language, culture, and history of this amazing country, not to mention the countless new networking opportunities it now provides. There are endless opportunities in China. The world awaits you, and China’s doors are wide open!