Positively Alaskan: Actor formerly living in China helps students learn a world away

Published: Jul. 31, 2020 at 8:00 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - After coronavirus numbers began skyrocketing in China, one Alaskan actor living there knew he couldn’t stay.

Justin Stewart moved to China with his wife, Jasmine Saxby, to join Tal Education Group.

Stewart is an actor for online educational videos to teach Chinese children English.

How he got the job? He brought a puppet to the interview.

“His name is Lenny,” Stewart said. “And bringing that puppet into the interview immediately caused the person who was interviewing me to see just what I was going to be all about.”

“He is definitely a child at heart. And he is just a bundle of energy,” Saxby said. “He is just a bundle of energy. And I think that’s something that he really brings to his work into these lessons is a lot of people.”

In January, Stewart and Saxby took a vacation from their work in Beijing. They saw numbers rise, and realized they couldn’t go back.

Luckily, their company allowed them to work from Alaska. Stewart and Saxby spent much of their childhoods in Alaska.

They found rentable space inside of the KTUU studios. Stewart acts in front of a green screen and his friend turned co-worker, Leeanna Chronister, films the scenes.

“I’m supposed to direct, run the teleprompter, and make sure Justin doesn’t go crazy,” Chronister joked. “I’m basically Justin’s manager, I make sure he’s not too loud.”

Since returning, Stewart has also started up a YouTube page where he makes videos and incorporates his love for puppeteering.

“I grew up with television personalities like Mr. Rogers, or Steve from Blue’s Clues,” Stewart said. “I grew up with television personalities like Mr. Rogers, or Steve from Blue’s Clues. I just want to Get on kids levels, and show them that I care about them.”

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