Xiaoling Zhang was not always a Chinese teacher.
Raised in a small town in China’s Shandong province, the new Middle School teacher immigrated to the United States in 2000 with a major in Chinese language and literature. She had previously worked for seven years as a news editor for Shengli Daily News in Dongying.
When she applied to Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College in Nashville, Tennessee, Zhang says she never imagined herself as a teacher.
“When I came to the United States, I had all these choices,” said Zhang. “I thought that education might better fit my personality and interests.”
As an immigrant, she says she experienced hardships learning English, but earning her master’s degree in education improved her confidence in writing and speech. Having graduated from Northwestern University of China, Zhang says she combined the attributes of both Chinese and Western education to better her success as a teacher.
“In China, the teaching philosophy is very different than that of Western culture,” said Zhang. “I could embrace the beliefs I thought were good for me and combine both sides into my teaching practice.”
Zhang taught math and science technology for six years at the Lamplighter School in Dallas and another six at the nearby Alcuin School. It was at Alcuin that she began teaching Chinese to students in grades four through nine.
In 2016, Zhang applied to Greenhill School and was hired to teach Chinese to Lower School students. She has now moved to the Middle School, where she teaches Chinese to students in fifth through seventh grades.
“Her colleagues spoke very highly of her,” said Head of Middle School Susan Palmer. “She has humor, she’s creative, hardworking, shows consistency in her work, and is passionate about teaching.”
In the classroom, students describe Zhang as charming and compassionate.
“She’s firm but kind,” said seventh grade student Tej Sachdeva.
In addition to her teaching duties, Zhang is co-advising sixth grade students with Middle School Latin teacher Joan Romanosky. She also co-hosts the East Asian Club along with Middle School Counselor Lizzie Collie and Middle School Science teacher Emma DeVine.
While she finds herself occupied with numerous activities, Zhang says teaching Middle School has been a pleasant experience.
“I have been very busy for the first couple of months, but I really enjoy teaching Middle School,” said Zhang. “So far, so good.”