For many, the day of Sept. 7 might pass by without a trace like any other ordinary days, but for Wang Laijiu, a teacher from east China's Anhui Province, the day was of special significance.
Just three days before China marks its 22nd Teachers' Day on Sept. 10, the Ministry of Personnel and Ministry of Education announced the decision to confer "national model teacher", the highest honor in the country for teaching profession, to Wang Laijiu, the only teacher with the Maotian Primary School in Yixian, a mountainous county in southern Anhui, and three more teachers from other regions of the country.
Wang has been given the honor for having introduced cooperation-based duplicated teaching method, similar to the Montessori method invented by Maria Montessori, one of the world's greatest educators, and for having stayed in teaching profession in a mountain area for 35 years.
Wang was assigned to teach at the Maotian Primary School, five km away from his home, upon his graduation from the Huizhou Normal School in Anhui in 1971. The school, situated in Maotian Village with a population of 300, only has a schoolhouse with three rooms: two for classrooms and one for the teacher's room.
There was no road from Maotian Village to the county seat of Yixian before 2001 and it took seven to eight hours for the villagers to reach the county seat on foot. An asphalt road connecting the village to the county seat was completed in 2001.
On weekdays, Wang sets out early from home for school and returns late in the evening. He often lives at the school when an exam season begins.Teacher Wang packs 22 students of six grades and one pre-school class into the two classrooms, regrouping the students and lecturing them by rotation.
"When I am teaching lessons to one class, the rest of the students are either arranged to do the homework or preparation," says Wang, who has been fostering helpers or leaders among pupils to assist his teaching.
Under Wang's arrangement, pupils of the same grade are encouraged to help each other with the study, while pupils from a higher grade are asked to offer help to their juniors. And students with good scores are asked to help those with bad scores, and student leaders are told to assist ordinary students.
Cheng Cong, a fifth grader, says: "I have learned a lot from my superiors and developed a sense of responsibility and accomplishment in helping my juniors."
"The teaching method developed by Teacher Wang is effective and of importance for other mountainous areas where there is an inadequacy of teaching resources and the quality of education is low," said Feng Hua, deputy chairman of the Anhui Provincial Federation of Educational Trade Unions.
Apart from being a teacher, Wang, now 56, also acts as the principal, the office boy and a caring nurse to his pupils.
During his tenure, there have been no cases of pupils failing to go up to the next grade, or safety accidents or school dropouts at the Maotian Primary School.
Up to now, Wang has taught two thirds of Maotian Village's total population, of whom, 70 or so have been enrolled by colleges of higher learning or secondary technical schools.
"Working here as a teacher for so many years, I have cultivated a healthy environment for the education featuring mutual trust, respect and cooperation between me and the villagers, and I am determined to teach till my retirement," said Wang, "My responsibility is to educate children so that they can grow up healthily."
Hu Qizheng, headmaster of the Central Primary School of Hongtan Township, worries that no one will take Wang's place once he retires given the harsh conditions with the Maotian Primary School.
China had more than 10.36 million primary and middle school teachers by last year, and compared to comparable figures of 2004, there was a drop of 41,400 teachers in the number for primary and junior middle schools, though the number of teachers working with senior high schools rose by 108,900 teachers, said information from the Chinese Ministry of Education.
The Chinese government has paid great attention to the development of education.
And the latest move of the education-emphasizing campaign is about a letter written by Chinese President Hu Jintao to Meng Fei, daughter of Meng Erdong, a professor of Chinese language and literature with the elite Peking University.
Meng Erdong, who died of oesophageal cancer at the age of 49 on April 22 in Beijing, was diagnosed of the illness in 2004 when he was sent for a two-month lecturing mission at Shihezi University in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. He insisted on finishing teaching task.
During his last days in Beijing, he did not stop coaching his students even though he was in a hospital and could hardly see and speak.
Media reports on the death of this ordinary but dedicated teacher earned him public respect. President Hu Jintao made a condolence phone call to Meng's family and sent a wreath bearing his calligraphy to Meng's funeral.
To express the family's gratitude, Meng Fei wrote a letter to the president on May 25. She recalled her father's last days and told the president about her sadness that he could no longer teach.
Two weeks later, the daughter received the president's reply, in which Hu spoke highly of Meng Erdong's noble character and sense of responsibility. In the letter, President Hu Jintao also extended his care for teaching personnel across the country, and encouraged more young university graduates to learn from the senior Meng and join the ranks of teachers.
Meng Fei made the letter public on Wednesday, four days ahead of Teachers' Day.