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Mercer, Chinese children to learn same curriculum

Satellite Education Program will allow Wisconsin teachers to connect with classrooms overseas


MERCER, Wis. — Despite more than 7,000 miles separating school districts, children in Mercer and China will learn the same curriculum through a Satellite Education Program.

Mercer School District Administrator Erik Torkelson attended a meeting in Madison June 1 to discuss the possibility of creating two American schools in China.

The Pittsville, Wis., School District is also a model school for the program. According to Torkelson, involvement in the program came through a former boss.

“As with any organization, this opportunity came about as a result of a successful relationship,” Torkelson said. “The consultant of the Satellite Education Program, Richard Vought, is my former boss and a highly respected superintendent. He is responsible for bringing Mercer together with the People’s Republic of China and the SEP.”

While in Madison, Torkelson and Pittsville superintendent Terry Reynolds met with representatives from the cities of Shanghai, Tianjin and Yinchuan to finalize agreements to deliver education services to three schools.

A course catalog has already been developed for the program and when students graduate, they will receive diplomas from the Mercer and Pittsville high schools. The program is set to begin in August.

The program not only allows for Chinese children to learn in American schools, it gives American teachers the opportunity to teach in China. Both Torkelson and Reynolds will work with SEP to recruit and hire about 60 teachers licensed by the state of Wisconsin to travel to China and work in the schools.

Teachers will be paid a tax-free salary by SEP, and the package also includes housing, insurance and one round-trip ticket per year.

“Mercer teachers will only go to China if they wish,” Torkelson said. “Ideally, we will send one or more each year to connect our district with theirs.”

Torkelson said he feels “honored and fortunate” to be at the forefront of a project like this.

“I believe it will change the future of the Mercer School District, as well as the future of international education, as we know it,” he said. “I am very proud of the fact that a country such as China is asking us to duplicate our educational programs so that their students can achieve similar success as Mercer students. They want what our students are experiencing so that they can have the same opportunities.

“We will continue to look for opportunities to bring resources to our students while lessening the burden on the taxpayers of Mercer.”

For more information on the program, or to learn more about the teaching options in China, contact Torkelson at 715-476-2154, or email him at


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