By Grace D.
“I get fulfillment from helping people, this is my personality, some people feel happiness when they achieve goals but I feel extremely happy when I can help others,” Ms. Jie Zhao, the new Mandarin teacher here at SEM said. During our interview, she talked about how passionate she is about teaching and the fulfillment it gives her to see the enthusiasm of students on their journey to learning a new language.
Her passion for teaching has taken her across the globe, from the Liaoning Province in China to Buffalo, NY to work here at SEM. She got her Bachelor’s degree at the Liaoning Technical University and is now completing her Master’s degree at the University at Albany, where she is majoring in curriculum development and instructional technology.
Before becoming a teacher, she was a journalist in the Liaoning Province. She explained that there are a lot of similarities between being a news reporter and a teacher, like the ability to listen and communicate with people, which ultimately led her to become a teacher. Her first experience in the classroom was when she started teaching online classes. This was the spark that lit her love of teaching.
When teaching, she focuses on introducing culture, holidays, and the history behind the Mandarin language. In Ms. Zhao’s class, Fridays are culture days. She weaves history lessons into the curriculum along with other topics like learning how to write with the Mandarin characters. “I introduce a well known historical setting like the Great Wall. So who built that?,” she explained. She focuses on giving a “background” of the language that may not be as widely known or taught, along with the other important parts like the unique way of writing with characters.
Outside of the classroom, Ms. Zhao enjoys an array of activities from camping with her family to reading. She loves cooking different types of food from numerous countries like Korea, Mexico, or even the United States. From making pizza and burgers to her personal favorite, dumplings. She says cooking is her “loving language” and is her way of enjoying people’s company and how much she cares for them. She loves cooking different types of food from numerous countries like Korea, Mexico, or even the United States. From making pizza and burgers to her personal favorite, dumplings.
She enjoys seeing the motivation, enthusiasm, passion, and creativity in SEM students. “Compared to general highschoolers, SEM students really stand out,” she said.
While at SEM she hopes to reach out to more students, and inspire them to learn more about Asian culture and help them open their minds to different cultures and ways of life. She believes that one big importance is how, “[learning] can help you connect with other people and help you understand how other languages work.”
She would like to inspire students to follow their passions no matter where it takes them. “I feel like I have a second chance to choose another career, you only live once,” Ms. Zhao said. “Open your mind, you open your heart.”