I believe learning a foreign language is an integral part of a liberal arts education as it fosters critical thinking skills and cultural awareness, and provides students with a global perspective for their education. Students learning about another country and culture are better able to understand the biases and assumptions that imbue their own worldview and to connect with colleagues and partners in a global economy. Because of this, while teaching a foreign language is initially about vocabulary, grammar and conversation, I always work to keep this underlying purpose in mind. For example, when reading an article, I make students aware of the author’s subtle implications by carefully analyzing word choices, and when teaching history and mythology, I encourage them to make connections with current events.
I also work to customize my teaching methods and design a wide range of class content, tasks, and complimentary materials to meet each student’s individual needs so that all students, regardless of their level and backgrounds, come to every class feeling challenged and leave the class inspired. Because a big part of learning happens outside of class, I assign group projects that motivate students to explore, cooperate and learn from each other. In a chapter about cuisines, I had groups of students engage in different carefully-designed small projects under one main topic through field trips and research, and then had them present their results in class. Students then wrote an essay incorporating all groups’ findings. My classes have also made group videos on practicing Chinese in real-life situations, and some of these videos have been uploaded to social media websites and have been well received by viewers. These tasks have also created a supportive and safe atmosphere in the classroom and brought students closer together, as many stated in course evaluations.
I am also devoted to helping my students grow academically and professionally. Because my students feel I know them well, I am often asked to provide reference letters to current and former students for internships, jobs, scholarships, fully-funded language programs and graduate school applications in a wide array of fields.
As a young faulty member, it is very encouraging and rewarding to be nominated a second time for a Golden Dozen Teaching Award. It motivates me to continue improving by exploring new teaching methods and engaging with students on the opportunities created by studying a foreign language.