By Debbie Adams
In January 2020, Perry Feng, his older sister Winnie, and their parents came to the Roanoke Valley from Taoyuan, Taiwan, to visit high schools and colleges with the goal of the students coming here to attend classes. They were hosted by Scott and Deborah Dryer of Dreyer Coaching in Vinton.
The Dreyers founded the online Dreyer Coaching program in 2008. Scott teaches English to Chinese-language speakers, mostly in China and Taiwan. Deborah teaches Chinese to English-speaking students.
“Perry’s parents approached me in the summer of 2019, so he could improve his English,” said Dreyer. “They were thinking about letting Perry attend high school in the USA, and they knew he needed to learn more English. He joined his first DreyerCoaching.com class in August 2019, so he could improve his skills in a one-on-one class.
“In September 2019, he also joined a twice-a-week reading/vocabulary class and a twice-a-week conversation class,” Dreyer said. “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.”
Perry and Winnie had visited North America a few years before to enroll in a month-long English camp in Vancouver when he was in the seventh grade. That left them both with the aspiration to study in a foreign country.
In August 2020, Perry took up residence with the Dreyers in Vinton and enrolled at Roanoke Valley Christian School (RVCS) as a freshman. The COVID-19 pandemic had a slight impact on his travel plans to the United States when his flight was cancelled due to the coronavirus as he waited in the airport to board. Luckily, an agent was able to get him another flight for the journey – which involved almost a full 24 hours of travel time.
Fortunately, he missed the months of virtual online learning other students in the US experienced last spring when the pandemic arrived. He says the coronavirus is mostly under control in his homeland. He noted that Taiwan has a much smaller population than the U.S. and that those there who contracted the virus were quarantined immediately. Everyone wears a mask as well.
RVCS is operating this fall with face-to-face instruction. Perry takes his temperature and answers health screening questions each morning before leaving for school, with the information verified by the Dreyers.
Perry attends classes at the school located on Williamson Road in Roanoke five days a week and plays on the school soccer team. The team has been able to play three games so far, with Timberlake, the Roanoke Valley Homeschool Recreation League, and Faith Christian.
Perry takes classes in math, English, physical education, world history, earth sciences, and Bible at RVCS, with PE being his favorite.
Perry says language still remains the biggest challenge he faces here, but his Dreyer Coaching online classes helped him to a great extent with his English language skills. While he took English classes in school in Taiwan, Perry says they were mainly vocabulary classes, not conversational in nature, but after sessions with Dreyer Coaching, he passed his oral interview with the principal at RVCS last January with flying colors.
He plans to remain here for all four years of high school and then attend a college or university in the U.S. His sister will enroll at Longwood University next fall to study International Business. Eventually his parents plan to move to America themselves.
Perry’s plan is to return home to Taiwan once a year in the summer to see his family. He talks with them via the Internet each weekend and keeps up with his friends in Taiwan as well. Those good friends held a surprise going away party for him as he prepared to leave for Roanoke.
With CDC guidelines in effect, life outside the Dreyer home is currently rather limited. Perry says he enjoys watching movies – Chinese and American – when he is not in school or participating in sports. There are occasional trips to the mall with Deborah Dreyer.
Generally, when the Dreyers house a foreign student, the expectation is that the student will attend church and youth services with them even though most often they are not of the Christian faith. COVID restrictions have modified that plan for the time being.
Perry is enjoying his stay in America, especially making friends and playing sports. He says the teachers are different at RVCS than in Taiwan schools.
In Taiwan, teachers were more likely to lecture and tell the students exactly what to do. Here at RVCS, there is more freedom and more independence is expected – “they let you think.” He says another difference is that at RVCS the students change classes, whereas in Taiwan, the students stay put and the teachers move from classroom to classroom.
Scott Dreyer says Perry is adapting well. He gets himself up, cleans his room, does his laundry, and gets his assignments done. Perry said, in fact, he is expected to be more independent than he was in Taiwan where his mother did his laundry.
Dreyer says Perry “has a great attitude, is always cheerful, always has a smile on his face, is very upbeat, and always cooperative at home.” He does his laundry and other chores without complaint; and is very punctual. A Spanish teacher from RVCS gives him a ride to school and “he is always ready at the door.”
Perry says his parents had some reservations about allowing him to come to the U.S. to study. First, there is the fact that COVID-19 is more widespread in America – but not so severe in Virginia as in other locations. There is also a different values system to consider here with different customs, a different culture – but ultimately his parents were willing to let him make the choice.
They felt through his classes with Dreyer Coaching he was well-prepared to handle the language and the curriculum.
Perry continues to study with Dreyer Coaching two hours a week on Saturday, and of course, the Dreyers are there at home, helping to improve his English skills through everyday conversation, discussing words all the time, in real time.
Dreyer says Dreyer Coaching makes every effort to set foreign students up for success with their English language programs; to give them a foundation to build upon so they can “hit the ground running” once they arrive here. They try to ensure that students are able to converse sufficiently to make friends, understand their teachers, and be able to ask questions of them.
He describes their online students as “topnotch.” Most remain in Asia. Some, like Perry, are really motivated to come to America to study, “even though they know it will be hard.”
Dreyer Coaching celebrated its 12th anniversary on October 22. “We praise God we have made it this far,” said Dreyer. The academy currently has 39 students served by “an amazing team” of 10 teachers.
The advantage for students in Taiwan and China studying with Dreyer Coaching, especially in this anxious time of the coronavirus, is that 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. Your education can continue even though regular schools might be closed, Dreyer said.