Carole Williams makes friends with a Sichuan Province panda. Williams, a retired teacher from the Prince of Peace Schools, was in China helping at a school in an area heavily damaged by an earthquake in 2008. (Submitted photos)
Carole Williams makes friends with a Sichuan Province panda. Williams, a retired teacher from the Prince of Peace Schools, was in China helping at a school in an area heavily damaged by an earthquake in 2008. (Submitted photos)
After only a few weeks into retirement from Prince of Peace Schools, Carole Williams again found herself inside a classroom teaching youngsters.

Only this time, instead of Shawe Memorial or Pope John, she was on the opposite side of the globe in China's Sichuan province in June.

Williams, who has visited China 15 times, was awarded a travel grant for the trip by the Alpha Epsilon State organization. She is a member of Mu Chapter of the Delta Kappa Gamma Society International.

During the trip, she taught art classes to third- through sixth-graders at a school that had been destroyed by a powerful earthquake in 2008. The disaster killed more than 69,000 people.

The boarding school, Xiang-E elementary school, has since been rebuilt. It is located about an hour north of the province capital Chengdu.

It was Williams' first time in the province - though she has regularly visited China since 1991 to teach English.

She said the school had very modest living quarters - metal bunkbeds and no running toilet - and little escape from the treacherous heat - no air-conditioning.

"It was the most primitive living conditions I've ever had," Williams said.

During her stay, Williams worked with the school's teachers and students, who were there as part of a summer camp.

The Sichuan earthquake relief fund of Louisville, which is led by U of L math professor Zeng Wei Bin, has raised more than $115,000 to help rebuild the school.

"The kids were great and very eager to learn," Williams said. "We did at least one project every day, and we didn't have any days off."

As part of the art projects, Williams worked with sandpaper, jewels, made etching in heavy duty foil and brought along shrink art.

Alongside Williams was a Xiang-E teacher who had just finished her first full year in the classroom. The two worked together on new techniques with everyday items that could be implemented into future curriculum.

Williams said the teachers did not have many traditional art items, such as a paper cutter or crayons.

The biggest hit was the shrink art.

When working with shrink art, students drew an image on a plastic sheet and then placed the work into a toaster oven and watched it take on a new shape.

"They were just so thrilled with that," Williams said.

The project was so popular that Williams even sent over four new packages of the crafts after she returned home.

Williams said she plans to continue taking opportunities to teach abroad. And while her most recent trip featured some of the most dramatic contrasts in living conditions, she said the experience as an educator was second to none.

"I would say this is one of my favorite teaching experiences to date," she said.