By Debbie Adams
Scott and Deborah Dreyer of Dreyer Coaching played host to a family from Taoyuan, Taiwan, in January. The Feng family— father Alex, mother Angel, daughter Winnie, and son Perry— were here over the Chinese New Year to visit high schools and colleges in the United States with the goal of the students coming here to attend classes.
Perry is 15 years old and would like to start school her next fall— most likely at Roanoke Valley Christian Schools. Winnie, 18, plans to finish her high school courses in Taiwan and then enroll in college in the United States.
The Fengs arrived at the Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport about 9 p.m. on Tuesday, January 21. Their first stop in the country was at McDonald’s before checking in at the Hotel Roanoke for their stay. While the children had previously traveled to Vancouver for an English camp, this was the first time their parents had traveled outside of Asia.
The Fengs rented a car and spent the next day recovering from jet lag at the Dreyers’ home in Vinton with a lesson in making pizza from scratch. Scott Dreyer says pizza making is always a unique experience for guests from Asia who, for the most part, don’t have ovens in their homes. Fuel costs are high in most areas there, which is what has led to the more economical practice of stir-frying food.
On the following day, January 23, the family toured Roanoke College. Dreyer says the Fengs “loved the campus” with its feel of small-town America. The college graciously treated them to lunch and made them feel most welcome.
They also visited Valley View Mall that day and squeezed in a visit to Connie McKinney, one of the teachers at Dreyer Coaching, who lives on a mountaintop in the Salem. Dreyer says it’s always a great experience when a student from abroad comes here and meets a teacher they have worked with online.
The Dreyers founded Dreyer Coaching, based at the HIVE business incubation center in Vinton. Scott teaches English to Chinese-language speakers, mostly in China and Taiwan. Deborah teaches Chinese to English-speaking students. They currently have nine teachers and about 60 students.
Friday’s rainy-day excursion was a tour of Dixie Caverns. The Fengs had never been in a cave. One extra benefit was that the students had a 50-minute walk hearing only English from the tour guide.
That evening Dreyer Academy held a Chinese New Year’s Eve Party at the Dreyers’ home. This year they have a student from China living with them— Matt Chen— as he attends Roanoke Valley Christian Schools. He was able to talk with the Fengs about his very positive experiences with American education.
Saturday, January 25, was the Chinese New Year’s Eve. Winnie and Perry went ice skating at the Lancerlot with the youth group from Parkway House of Prayer, the Dreyers’ church.
The next day, the family accompanied the Dreyers to church although they are not of the Christian religion. If Perry comes to live with the Dreyers and attends RVCS here, he will be expected to attend church with the family and will be exposed to Christian teachings at school. The family says that although they are not Christians, the Bible teaches good moral values and attending church will also give Perry another chance to learn more English.
That afternoon happened to be the monthly gathering of youth groups from several area churches at Parkway for “Illuminate,” a time of badminton, basketball, and fellowship.
On Monday, January 27, the family and Scott traveled to Farmville so that Winnie could visit Longwood College, where they were again made to feel most welcome and treated to lunch. They were also able to spend a little while in Appomattox. Strangely enough, Perry, from Taiwan, is deeply interested in American Civil War history. They were able to see the historic McLean house and speak with a park ranger.
Tuesday, January 28, was set aside for a tour of the campus at Roanoke Valley Christian Schools where Perry interviewed with the principal and passed his oral interview on his first try “with flying colors.” Dreyer left Winnie and Perry at the school for the day to shadow students.
Wednesday was spent at Smith Mountain Lake at the home of Scott’s father. There was a cake to celebrate an early birthday for Winnie and her mother. The evening was spent again with the church youth group. The family then said their goodbyes as their flight left very early on January 30.
Dreyer says that Step One is for Perry to enroll at the RVCS next fall while living with the Dreyer family. Winnie plans to complete her high school courses in Taiwan and then enroll in a college or university somewhat close to Roanoke— that’s Step Two. She hopes to enter as a sophomore or junior and major in International Business.
Step Three will be the re-location of the entire family to the United States once the children have completed their educations and settled someplace.
A licensed teacher in Virginia since 1987, Dreyer has been helping Chinese speakers improve their English since 1989. He lived in Taiwan from 1989-1999 where he learned Mandarin, met his wife, started his family, and realized he loved working with Chinese students. He became an award-winning author and started teaching ESL online in 2008.
The business got a boost with The Advancement Foundation Gauntlet Business Program and Competition in 2016 when Dreyer Coaching won a large cash prize which enabled the Dreyers to travel to China and Taiwan to recruit more students for their academy.
Dreyer says that the advantage for students in Taiwan and China studying with Dreyer Coaching, especially in this anxious time of the coronavirus, is that the online instruction is convenient (you can learn anytime, anywhere), environmental (no travel, no traffic, no pollution), and safe when you learn from home and avoid all viruses–with your education continuing even though schools might be closed down.
Perry has been studying with Dreyer Coaching since the summer of 2019.
“Perry’s parents approached me in the summer of 2019, so he could improve his English,” said Dreyer. “They said they were thinking about letting Perry attend high school in the USA someday, and they knew he needed to learn more English.
“He joined his first DreyerCoaching.com class with Mrs. Rosenbaum in August 2019, so he could improve his skills in a one-on-one class. Perry was so nervous that first day, his older sister had to sit with him to help explain and translate. However, he quickly caught on and was able to attend class by himself.
“A few weeks later, in September, he also joined a twice-a-week reading/vocabulary class with Mrs. McKinney and a twice-a-week conversation class with Mr. Woodson and Ms. Holmes,” Dreyer continued. “His English has improved so much, that when his family came to visit us in Roanoke, he was able to speak freely with people in English. When I asked his father what he thought about how DreyerCoaching.com had helped his son, he said (in Chinese), “At first [in August] he was afraid to speak, but now he’s not afraid to speak. That is really good!”
Winnie has been enrolled in Dreyer Coaching’s SAT classes in Advanced Vocabulary and Reading Comprehension. Another service Dreyer Coaching offers, aside from teaching English, is assistance with the college process.
“Dreyer Coaching offers classes from basic English to Advanced College Placement and everything in between,” Dreyer says.