Meet the Chinese Language Director: Tong Chen

Get to know the Director of the Chinese Academy—Tong Chen—in an interview, highlighting her successes in education and styles of teaching the Chinese language to middle and high school students.

June 27, 2016

“If a thing’s worth doing, it is worth doing well.”—Chinese Proverb

Tong Chen, the Director of the Chinese Academy, embodies this philosophy to the fullest extent possible.

Tong Chen was born in Fujian, China, where she spent the entirety of her childhood. Later on, she attended Xiameng University, which is also located in Fujian, China. While there, she studied economics and linguistics, concentrating predominantly in English language and literature studies.

In 2001, she moved to the United States in order to attend graduate school. She received her M.A. in education from the College of St. Joseph, which is located roughly 70 miles away from St. Michael’s College in Rutland, Vermont. After that, she completed her doctoral studies in Educational Leadership, receiving her degree from the University of Phoenix.

After arriving in America, she also met her husband. The two were married in 2002, and now have two kids—one is two-and-a-half years old and the other is 10 months old.

Now, she works as a Chinese language teacher at Leland and Gray Union Middle and High School in Vermont, instructing students in seventh through twelth grades. Her classes range from the Novice Level all the way to the Advanced Placement Level.

Tong Chen is a renowned educator, who has received a wide array of awards and honors over the course of her 13 years of teaching. Some of which include:

  • Being selected as the Vermont State Teacher of the Year in 2012
  • First teacher in the state of Vermont, as granted by College Board, to teach AP Chinese
  • The establishment and development of the Chinese program in her school system
  • An invitation to the White House for her distinguished teaching skills
  • Establishing Sister Schools in China

Also, Tong Chen once took part in a round-table talk with Bill Gates and his foundation about the necessity of improving teacher evaluations in America’s school system. She advocated for the creation of a more detailed, individually-focussed approach to evaluating a teacher’s skills, rather than merely giving teachers a generic paper report on their strengths and weaknesses.

Tong Chen is, undoubtedly, a teacher with a passion for what she does.

When asked about her teaching philosophy, she responded by saying that, “Teaching is an art. It needs to be tailored to meet the needs of every single student.”

She believes in the importance of educating the individual mind. With this individualized-teaching approach, she’s able to effectively allow each and every student—with whom she comes into contact—to reach his/her fullest potential.

But more importantly, she spoke about the necessity of keeping her students interested while in class. According to Tong Chen, “If they’re not retaining interest, it’s meaningless.” She recognizes the critical correlation between a student’s interest, and then how that affects his/her learning skills. By generating interest, she said, students are able to maximize their learning.

Additionally, she spoke about the importance of always remaining positive, even in times of negativity.

For instance, she talked about the multitude of budget cutbacks that schools across the country are currently facing, and also the negative effects they have been creating. But even in light of these cutbacks, she said, there’s always a way to see the light.

Rather than allowing her frustrations to build up over a lack of funds, she chooses to, instead, take the high-road: Tong Chen sees this as an opportunity to discover new, unused methods to teach her students.

When asked about her ultimate goal of the Academy, she responded, stating that, "I hope students get inspired and retain their interest and passion for not only foreign languages, but also for the cultures of these languages.”

She then continued her response, citing that it is her hope to establish an “acceptance of differences” amongst cultures across the world. According to her, “cultural awareness respect” is the ultimate goal.

She’s an innovator, out-of-box-thinker, but above all—an influential educator.

Tong Chen is now entering her fourth year with the Academy. This summer, she hopes, will be the best of them all!

Chinese and French Academy Directors: Tong Chen and David Sainsily