She made her journey in November at the invitation of the People to People Citizen Ambassador Program, based in Spokane, Wash. She joined a delegation of 180 educators in exchanging information with Chinese educators in Beijing.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower started the program to promote interaction between educators, physicians, engineers and other people with common interests.
"I think they found me because I'm a member of the National Association for Education of Young Children," Ritchie said. "When I met other delegates, this was the one organization that we all had in common. Fortunately, I was able to attend because Haddonfield Friends secured $5,000 in funding."
Ritchie's meetings were held at Beijing Normal University, a teachers'
college. "There were 12 sessions," she said. "And we covered everything
from early-childhood development and psychology to teacher training, exceptional children and aspects of play."
Chinese early education focuses more on art, music and body movement than the U.S. system does, Ritchie said.
"We tend to center more on academic skills," she said. "But in China, in the very early years from 3 years old to 6 years old, the children are encouraged to express creativity through painting and dance. They put a great deal of emphasis on physical activity. When primary school begins, at 6 or 7 years, then the emphasis shifts to reading, writing and mathematics.
"The Chinese have wonderful outdoor playgrounds for the little ones, and they also wear colorful clothes, just like our children. It's only in later years that they wear uniforms and yellow hats. The hats are a safety feature to alert adults to be aware of children.
"Also, they do tend to do things in group activities a bit more than we do. In an American class, you might find a group of children playing blocks and another group playing house.
"I asked about this, and it seems that since each family is allowed to have only one child, the teachers are concerned about the children being self- centered. They are the center of family life, and it's a challenge to teach them how to share, relate and interact with other children successfully."
Ritchie said she was made to feel very welcome: "Everyone was open and friendly and eager to help us to enjoy our trip.
"After our time in Beijing, some delegates traveled to Shanghai, Nanjing and Hangzhou. One night, we took a walk in Nanjing, just peering in shop
windows and seeing the people, and it was great. Everyone smiled at us."
One highlight occurred at a Nanjing primary school. "A 6-year-old girl painted a picture of a cat in art class. After she finished, she brought it over to me and said simply, 'For you,' " Ritchie said.
She is now planning to set up an exchange of student artwork through a new friendship with Ha Liwen, a teacher at Number Seven Kindergarten, Eastern City District, Beijing. "It's a beginning," she said.
Ritchie lives in Haddonfield with her husband, Allan. They have three grown children and two grandchildren.
For most people, four years of college and three years of law school might constitute a lifetime of learning. But for Richard M. Hluchan (pronounced Lukan), living fully means continuing education.
Hluchan, 44, is a partner in the Voorhees law firm of Levin & Hluchan, which specializes in environmental and land-use law. But this month, he will return to school. It's not a typical classroom situation; it's more of a hands-on experience. Hluchan will join 55 others from across the state as a Leadership New Jersey Fellow for 1994.
The leadership program, started in 1986, is one facet of The Partnership, an organization founded in 1984 to expand and improve the leadership pool in South Jersey.
The program is supported by the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation and various corporations that lend their executives for one year to oversee it.
Partnership director Thomas O'Neill said each fellow was carefully selected for the program, which requires $2,000 in tuition.
The program was designed to develop knowledge of state issues, and to help professionals hone their coalition-building skills to solve state problems, O'Neill said.
"We had about 140 applicants to the program this year," he said. "But professional competence is not enough to gain entry into this program. We're looking for people who have a record of leadership in community and volunteer activities as well."
Hluchan is a former deputy state attorney general in Trenton and chief counsel to the Pinelands Commission. He has also raised funds for the Baidoa Orphanage in Somalia and been active in Haddonfield School activities.
To get the fellows comfortable with one another, an introductory program has been developed, O'Neill said.
"Since we'll be discussing controversial topics like prisons, juvenile offenders, health and social reform in our nine sessions, this retreat is to guide people in learning how to say 'you're wrong' without getting involved in personal attacks," he said.
"The sessions will put people in typical situations that confront the professional who work in each area. We do field work and case studies. For example, in the human-services area, teams will go to Paterson and deal with real cases. They might have to deal with problems in a hospital emergency room.
"They'll have to figure out how to solve real problems. For example, they might have a 15-year-old girl living in an abusive situation who needs help. And she might not speak English. But they have to find a way to resolve her problem through using the resources available."
Hluchan thinks the program has come at the right time in his life.
"This is really a chance for me to broaden my knowledge," he said. "I'm up on environmental issues and land use. I can tell you all about Superfund sites.
"But it's difficult to contribute to any dialogue and debate the issues facing us across the state if we're stuck in a narrow niche. I've reached the point where I think it's necessary to get a handle on the whole ball game."
Hluchan lives in Haddonfield with his wife, Deborah, and two daughters.