After 14 years of teaching local rural students, Tang Quanyou, the only primary school teacher in the remote village of Changfeng county, Hefei city, Anhui province, said he more than ever loves his job and students.
Teaching in the smallest school
Starting his career as a teacher in the local village since 1975, Tang has been teaching for 37 years in the eastern Chinese province. In 1998, he was chosen by the local government as a teacher in Shangdu Primary School -- attached to Bazhang Primary School - which is about 10 kilometers away from the school.
Located in the outermost reaches of Shangdu Village, the school, which is 10 km away from the nearest market in Changfeng county, is the smallest among all 185 complete primary schools.
"What we all have is the only classroom and playground," said Tang, the 60-year-old teacher.
"A crowd of sparrows often gathered under the tiled roof of this classroom, which distracted students' attention from study and even pecked countless holes underneath the roof," Tang added.
With bad teaching facilities and an isolated environment, Tang said he felt so lonely and solitary that he wanted to quit his job at the very beginning.
"But thinking of the responsibility of being a teacher, I finally decided to stay here to impart to the kids what they should know at their ages," Tang said.
"I have to finish all the jobs by myself, including teaching, preparing lessons and checking their homework," he said. "And six lessons everyday at the early time often make me feel tired." Nevertheless, he said he never missed one lesson in past 37 years, even when he was badly ill.
As a teacher
When the school opened in 1998, more than 60 students, including those from other counties like Dingyuan county, were all attracted to study here.
"They were divided into two grades at that time, so I had to teach different grades in one classroom, and it is important to make the optimist teaching plans which is suitable for different students."
Tang said he will pay more attention to develop kids in every aspect, including arts, music and sports, and not just in schoolwork. He even learned how to do a setting-up exercise from teachers in other primary school in his spare time to teach his students.
"Besides, the colorful after-school activities can also stimulate their interest in study and make them acquire knowledge happily," he said
He also added the late age of being educated in countryside "made it necessary to teach them word by word and sentence by sentence with all my patience and passion."
More than a teacher "Acting as both the principle and teacher of the school, Tang taught six basic subjects which his pupils are supposed to learn. He treats them as his children and looks after their daily life," said Hu Yong, an official in the local villagers' committee.
After 2001, Tang decided to reside in the school to take better care of the children.
"This school has become my home now and I often cook for those kids when their grandparents are busy with farm work," said Tang, adding most of the kids are stay-at-home children who are very young and left by their parents who seek jobs outside their own village. He sees iit as his duty to look after them when they are in school.
"Teacher Tang is very nice and often plays football with us," said He Donghui, a six-year-old boy who is one of three students in grade one -- the only grade of the school in this year.
"The older kids in this village will finish their schoolwork in Bazhang Primary School, a larger school in local village, after two years of studying here," Tang said.
Support and encouragement
"Teacher Tang was honored as one of the outstanding model teachers of China in 2009, and his story has been reported and praised by countless media," said Chen Yan, director of the External Publicity Office in the Publicity Department of Changfeng County Committee of the Communist Party of China.
Since 2009, Tang Quanyou and his school have aroused public attention in and out of Changfeng county, which enable Tang to teach in a better environment.
"Last year, our condition has changed a lot since a new classroom, which is the only classroom in this school, was built, and a smooth cement road to our school was also repaired with the help of local government," Tang said.
"The great support from local government and parents encourage me to do my job better and better."
However, what makes Tang feel happiest and proudest is the good performance which his students have made on school work.
"My students got the highest scores in the three exams of major subjects held by the local village in 2007," Tang added.
Selfless love for children
"No education can be furthered without selfless love for students, and only a teacher who cares about his students will receive respect and esteem from his students in return," Tang said.
"Every Teachers' Day, my students will give my wife and me their handmade cards reading their best wishes for us," Tang recalled.
According to Tang, he has taught more than 100 students in his 37 years of teaching. "Many of them will come back to this school every year to visit me."
Tang said even if he has to retire from his teaching career next year, he "would like to stay here as long as possible to disseminate all his knowledge and passion for these kids."
"My husband loves these adorable kids. So do I," said Gao Guozhen, Tang's 58-year-old wife who dropped her farm work and moved to the school with Tang in 2006.
"I just hope to take care of his life as much as possible and make him focus on his teaching work," said Gao, despite the complaint that Tang has spent most of his time teaching and has left no time for his three kids who now work in other cities.
"It's very hard for a person willing to insist on one thing for so many years and teacher Tang, as the leader of our school's Party group, is an outstanding example for all of our young teachers," said Guo Shouguang, principle of Bazhang Primary School in Changfeng county.