Green Bay Mandarin Teacher Honored for Breaking Down Cultural Barriers for Her Students
Qiuhong Zhang chosen as March Honoree; profiled by Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother author Amy Chua
WASHINGTON, DC - March 1, 2018
Growing up in China, Qiuhong Zhang knew that one day she would become a teacher. While studying English in high school, she had a revelation that would become the foundation for her life’s work. “Learning another language made me open my mind to see the world from different views.”
This month, Qiuhong’s dedication to building meaningful relationships with her students at Notre Dame Academy in Green Bay, Wisconsin and immersing them in Chinese culture is being recognized by Honored, a nonprofit organization dedicated to keeping great teachers in the classroom and to inspiring a new generation of talent to pursue teaching.
Through her recognition, Qiuhong will receive a $5,000 cash award in addition to a $1,000 DonorsChoose gift card, allowing her to pay it forward to another teacher.
Qiuhong’s inspirational story is immortalized in a profile article by Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom author and Yale Law School Professor Amy Chua. In the profile featured on Honored’s website, Chua tells of the immeasurable impact that Qiuhong made on the life of one former student, Diego Diaz:
Diego’s academic career has been a testament to Qiuhong’s belief that learning foreign languages is more than just memorizing vocabulary and grammar. “It’s really about breaking down barriers between countries,” he said. And that, of course, is what Qiuhong sought to teach Diego and her students all along: to be, as was her classroom motto, “Open to the future, open to the world.”
Diego was born in Mexico City, and his family moved to Green Bay when he was two years old. He spoke no English, so his parents enrolled him an English-speaking preschool, where he quickly learned his second language. In sixth grade at Wisconsin International School, he decided to immerse himself in another foreign culture by joining Qiuhong Zhang’s Mandarin class rather than sticking with Spanish. “I wanted to challenge myself, to get out of my comfort zone,” he said.
Qiuhong, who sees herself as a “cultural ambassador” as much as a language teacher, created innovative, hands-on experiences to teach her students the complexities of Mandarin. She has her students taste-test Chinese foods and even taught them to cook dumplings in her own home. She connected her students with pen pals in China and taught them traditional Chinese legends and fables. Qiuhong’s passion for teaching catalyzed Diego’s passion to learn. He was a quick study and credited Qiuhong with his rapid progress. Diego said,
“She helped me become a more open-minded person. I have been able to grasp a deeper understanding of Chinese culture, but she also taught me to be appreciative of all cultures around the world,”
In the spring of his eighth grade year, Diego’s study with Qiuhong culminated in a class trip to China that was one of the most exciting and eye-opening experiences of his young life. When two local girls approached him on the street in Beijing, he spoke to them in fluent Mandarin. “They were so shocked!” Qiuhong laughed.
After Wisconsin International School closed, Qiuhong was recruited by parents of her former students to join the faculty at Notre Dame Academy, where she founded the school’s Mandarin program. Diego had already matriculated to Notre Dame Academy, and he was thrilled to be reunited with the teacher who had opened his eyes to the world.
Now studying International Affairs at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., with a lifetime of opportunity in front him, Diego is the embodiment of his Mandarin teacher’s philosophy:
“I want my students to know that the world is so big. There are so many beautiful things everywhere.”
Read how a relationship built on embracing cultural diversity transformed the life of a student: www.honored.org/honoree/Qiuhong-Zhang.
Has a teacher changed your life? Honored wants to share your story and give your teacher some well-deserved recognition! To nominate a teacher, visit honored.org/nominate.
Honored is a nonprofit organization dedicated to keeping great teachers in the classroom and to inspiring a new generation of talent to pursue teaching. Each month, Honored shines a spotlight on a teacher who has changed the life of a single student. The Honoree receives a $5,000 cash award, and Honored partners with a world-class writer to tell their story. Honorees are selected from K-12 teachers of all subjects at public, private and charter schools across the country. Honored’s National Advisory Board includes luminaries such as the internationally best-selling author Michael Lewis, DonorsChoose.org founder Charles Best, Teach For America founder Wendy Kopp, and FEED cofounder Lauren Bush Lauren.
For more information about Honored, visit honored.org. For regular updates on Honored and our monthly Honorees, follow and like us on facebook.com/Honored.org, twitter.com/honored and instagram.com/honored.
Honored Press ContactKatherine Boone