Faculty Friday: Yajie Zhang

Each school year, the faculty at Nichols School provide tremendous guidance and encouragement to help their students learn and grow. Our faculty members are empowered to craft the curriculum as they see fit, to make learning relevant and rewarding for every child.
Faculty Friday features the outstanding teachers of Nichols School and showcases the work they do to help our students and our community.

Yajie Zhang is currently in her 14th year teaching Mandarin Chinese at Nichols School. Ms. Zhang helps students not only learn a new language, but she also helps them gain an appreciation for Chinese culture and connects them with opportunities for learning outside the classroom. Students spent this past week celebrating the Lunar New Year and learning what the celebration entails in China. 

How long have you taught at Nichols?
I began teaching at Nichols in 2007, so this is my 14th year.

How did your classes celebrate the Chinese New Year?
Chinese 2 students made a presentation about the traditions of the Chinese New Year and the different Zodiac symbols, and Chinese 3 students recited poems in a video presentation for the school. All Chinese classes took part in a drawing competition as well. In past years, we have made dumplings for the entire school! 

What do your students do to connect with the Chinese-speaking community during this time?
Every year, our students share a video with others in the area. We send a film or a performance to the local Chinese community. We try to make those connections with the community, helping them find authentic experiences.

There are many great opportunities outside the classroom as well. Students who pass Chinese 3 often take part in competitions through the Confucius Institute, or they will travel abroad.

What do your students learn from studying Chinese at Nichols?
From fifth grade through 12th grade, students learn so much about the language starting so early. I think it's really important because their pronunciation is very good when they begin at a young age, the sounds come easier to them. The majority of students who begin in fifth grade go all the way through 12th grade in Chinese classes. 

Studying any foreign language gives students more than just learning to speak another language. The communication skills helps them better understand other cultures. Many students also go on to major or minor in Chinese studies. Some of our alumni have gone on Chinese international exchanges, and then in college they will study abroad or enroll in college in China. I'm so happy to see them continuing to learn the skills and pursue mastery in college.

Why do you enjoy teaching?
I love to share my love of my country with students, showing them the culture and helping them gain some understanding of language skills as well.

What do you enjoy most about Nichols?
My favorite thing about Nichols is of course the students and my colleagues. I just love when I see the students grow. My students, I see them grow from freshman to senior year since they take classes with me each year. The colleagues I get to work with are also very helpful to each other and open, so it's a great feeling and a nice place to teach.