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Twenty percent of Saint George’s 8th to 12th graders are Chinese

At Saint George’s School in North Spokane, 40 of the 377 students in K-12 are Chinese.  They are 20 percent of eighth through 12th students, which are the grades they attend. 

Elizabeth Tender with 10th grader Wendy Chen from Beijing, and juniors Thomas Xu from Qingdao and Mary Xu from Chengdu.

They add to the school’s diversity and opportunities for cultural awareness. 

Chinese have been the largest group of international students in recent years.

The school has also had Korean, Taiwanese and Russian students.  A few students from countries such as France and Germany come for two-month exchanges.

The Chinese students live with 24 host families in Spokane.  Many, but not all, are Saint George’s families. 

“We try to find the right fit and continually are looking for new families,” said Elizabeth Tender, the international student coordinator.

The first student she and her husband Jamie hosted was a Russian boy who was the same age as their son.  The other students have been Chinese. 

“Our children have learned to be more accepting and more tolerant of people,” said Elizabeth.

Many of the Chinese students are recruited by word of mouth, as well as by three agencies.  They come from various parts of China.  Most are from Beijing, Chengdu and Guangzhou, but they did not know each other before coming.

Elizabeth has traveled to China to recruit the students, arranges visas and paperwork, advises them and has hosted four students over five years.

The students come to learn English, learn about American culture and attend U.S. colleges.

Saint George’s School, a small college-prep school at 2929 W. Waikiki Rd., wants to expose its local students to other cultures and languages to broaden their world views.

Because Spokane seems to be a homogeneous culture, Elizabeth said that having the Chinese students adds to the school’s diversity, along with local students of different racial and ethnic backgrounds.

“It makes the world smaller,” she said. “We want students to experience more than their own culture and know there is a big world out there.  We want it to be a norm to accept that there are different cultures and ideas.”

Saint George’s School teaches Chinese, too.

“Our mission is to inspire scholars, athletes and artists to lead and serve others,” she said, “so we want the school to be internationally minded.”

The school recently became an International Baccalaureate (IB) school, graduating the first IB class in 2016.  International Baccalaureate is an internationally recognized standard of education.

Saint George’s offers IB classes, not Advanced Placement (AP), but assists students who choose to do AP classes.

Elizabeth said AP classes in math want students to remember formulas and answer multiple choice questions, while IB math is about understanding why and how to find answers, so students learn to think.  In the school, 35 students have chosen to go for a full IB diploma, both international and local students.

“IB students integrate into the school population and are as involved as others in sports, robotics, choir, and other activities,” said Elizabeth.

The Chinese students bring cultural awareness.  For example, the last Friday in January, Saint George’s celebrated Chinese New Year, bringing in food and red lanterns.

Elizaabeth Tender, SGS, International Student Coordinator, IB Coordinator, Summer School Coor.

Elizabeth grew up in Georgia and met her husband, Jamie, while studying psychology at Denison University.  In 1992, she graduated from the University of Georgia in Atlanta and they married. 

Jamie earned a master’s at Georgia State University.  They taught at Galloway School, a private school, for 10 years before looking for a school in a less urban area.

In 2003, they moved to Spokane for Jamie to be development director and middle school principal at Saint George’s School.  In 2016, he became head of the school. 

Elizabeth began as assistant to the head of the school, and then became international student coordinator, IB coordinator and summer school coordinator.

While Saint George’s started in 1955 as an Episcopal school, it is now non-religious.  Parents started it to create an educational option in Spokane to prepare students to succeed at the best colleges and universities.

The school is on the site of Louis Davenport’s former summer home, Flowerfield, on 120 acres beside the Little Spokane River, a setting conducive for outdoor educational experiences.

The school has a staff of 65, so teachers and staff know the students on a personal level, because classes are small, averaging 10 to 15 students. 

Students are self-motivated, said Elizabeth, telling of filling in for a math teacher recently and finding that the students were given four problems to solve.  They worked together and focused on it for an hour and a half without needing help.

Elizabeth grew up Episcopal and her husband Catholic.  While not in a faith community now, she said they are at Saint George’s because the “school is about the whole student, not just academics, but emotions, psychology and all aspects of a student’s life.

“Teachers know and care about the students,” she said.

The school has six buses to transport students from around Spokane.  About half come by bus and half are driven.

As a private school, it’s supported by tuition.  International students pay tuition and pay host families for monthly costs.

For information, call 464-8815 or email

Copyright © February 2017 - The Fig Tree