Edward Chang in his classroom.

Edward Chang Brings Multicultural Expertise to the American Classroom

Posted on April 28, 2022 by Jessica Boyd

Edward Chang sharing different types of teas in his classroom.

If you walk into Edward Chang’s classroom, you might see students turning lemons into batteries, trying out Chinese and American teas, or watching their teacher don a paper lion mane to act out myths. Regardless of what is on the calendar for the day, one thing is for sure: Chang’s students are fully engaged in the learning process.

Originally from Taiwan, Chang serves as a language instructor through Educational Partners International (EPI). In his role as a Mandarin Immersion teacher in High Point, North Carolina, Chang teaches all classroom subjects – but in Mandarin instead of English. That gives his students at Ferndale Middle School the opportunity to learn a language conversationally while still receiving the content from core subjects.

When immersion classes are taught by native speakers, students can experience the culture teachers bring with them. Having previously taught English in Taiwan and Mandarin in New Zealand, Chang arrived in the USA as a veteran language teacher who was already familiar with the opportunities and challenges that come with teaching in a new country. 

Ferndale Middle School is an authorized International Baccalaureate (IB) World School and defines itself as “a global learning community that inspires innovative leaders.” Through his time at Ferndale Middle, Chang has lived up to that vision. Because of Taiwan’s complex and multifaceted cultural history, Chang is familiar with the customs and traditions of many Indo-Pacific countries and brings that rich knowledge to the classroom. “The culture of Taiwan is multiculturalism, including indigenous people's culture, Chinese immigrants’ culture, Hakka immigrants’ culture, Japanese immigrants’ culture, new immigrants’ culture, and so on,” Chang said. As such, he has the ability to provide his students with more cultural context about China than many other Mandarin teachers.

Edward Chang teaching in an American classroom.

Cultural exchange is at the forefront of Chang’s educational approach. As one of his first teaching initiatives, he implemented the Academic Friendship Program in his classroom. This program connected his students each year with Chinese students of a similar age to participate in a pen pal program. Having Chinese pen pals helped to not only solidify the language skills his students were learning in the classroom, it also fostered a deeper appreciation of cultural differences as the students were able to share American traditions while learning about Chinese culture.

Chang’s commitment to providing his students with engaging and relevant material has never waned, even with the challenges of COVID-19. For one lesson during the US quarantine, he recorded himself cooking steam eggs using his own traditional recipe. He emphasized vocabulary and pronunciation of key Mandarin words and provided step-by-step instructions, so students could make their own eggs. He also included a segment on proper hand hygiene, essential knowledge for students facing a pandemic. 

"The people around me are very special and have made my teaching experience a special one."

Despite all of his extraordinary efforts in the classroom, Chang remains modest enough to acknowledge those who have helped him succeed. “The teaching and learning of Mandarin Chinese as a Second Language at Ferndale Middle IB World School has been a collaborative effort by all of the sponsors, school members, communities, parents, students, and the people around me,” he said. “In other words, the people around me are very special and have made my teaching experience a special one.”

Building connections between people of other countries is important to Chang, not only in regards to his students but with every American he meets. Beloved by school administrators, teachers, and students, Chang has made a lasting impression at EPI. He is always looking for events to volunteer for in his school and High Point and is also active in EPI’s online community, participating in EPI’s forum, Launch Your Classroom! viewings, and webinars. He uses these online spaces to grow as a teacher as well as to help other international teachers in the program. EPI staff know Chang as a rock star teacher and have come to look forward to his newsletters, which include page after page of pictures and descriptions of the latest and greatest happenings in his classroom. 

Perhaps the most significant example of Chang’s empathy and respect for his American associates is his participation in High Point’s grade-in demonstration. A group of local teachers took their large stack of papers to a local Starbucks to grade. The purpose was to publicly showcase the workload teachers in the USA take on and the hours they spend working outside the classroom without additional compensation. Even though Chang’s tenure as a teacher in the USA will end after six years and he will be returning to Taiwan, he felt it was important to participate and support his American colleagues.

Chang is a teacher who demonstrates all an educational and cultural exchange program can offerunique perspectives, innovative classroom lessons, and mutual understanding within the community. Throughout his time as an EPI teacher, he has exhibited himself as an exceptional teacher over and over again. For his fellow EPI teachers and applicants, Chang does have one piece of advice: “Like all New Zealanders, I will say ‘Kia kaha,’ a Māori phrase used by the people of New Zealand meaning ‘stay strong,’ used as an affirmation, to the teachers who may be considering applying to teach in the US in the near future.”

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