D39's New Teachers: Yiyi Xu, Mandarin Teacher at Highcrest Middle School
A series interviewing District 39's new teachers to help you get better acquainted with these additions to the Wilmette community.
Name: Yiyi Xu
Position: Mandarin teacher at Highcrest Middle School
Hometown: Guangzhou, China
Education: Undergraduate degree in mass communications from Guangzhou University
Teaching Background: Four years as a Mandarin teacher in Jamesville, Wisconsin, teaching in grades three through five, and occasionally in grades six and seven.
What inspired you to become an educator?
“When I was working at Coca Cola [in China], they were sponsoring some of the schools in rural China, because the students there didn’t have English teachers. So I actually started a program in my company that initiated half of the staff members to volunteer to go to these rural schools to teach English during the weekend. So I think at that time, I planted the seeds in my mind that I really want to become a teacher.”
“I met my husband in China and we started to have our family here. We came here in 2004. Our daughter was born in 2005, so I was a stay-at-home mom for a couple years… In 2007, there was an opportunity coming up in Jamesville, Wisconsin. They started a Mandarin program there, so I started to teach Mandarin.”
What attracted you to District 39?
“An opportunity came up in District 39 this year. I really love the program here because I really enjoy the 45 minutes [of instruction time] every day with the students… That’s the main reason. I think that’s very important, to have that consistency for language instruction in students’ lives.”
How would you describe your teaching technique?
“In the past five years, I’ve been to numerous workshops to learn what to teach and how to teach. Of all those teaching methodologies, I use TPR [Total Physical Response] a lot.... For this young age, it uses gestures and visuals to teach them how to say the words, instead of them learning them from the book. They learn [the words] from the actions. We just started our first unit, and it’s getting to know the students and talking about sports. We just to the gestures back and forth and students will naturally produce by themselves. They already can… They hear me saying each word at least 60 to 70 times every two to three class periods, so they are able to produce it by themselves naturally. And I also use stories to engage the students and also the use of authentic materials [from China].”
Do you have any special program that you plan on implementing or a notable, upcoming project?
“In the past four years I have done an end-of-the-year performance at my old schools, a talent show. And the students showcase what they have learned during the whole year. I will continue to do that in Wilmette. Also, every year we have so many cultural festivals and activities for the students to engage with. For example, Chinese New Year is a big part of the culture, so I will actually teach kids how to make dumplings, because that is what people will do in the northern part of China… We will also do a line dance parade. We have costumes. Kids will learn how to use that and why we are doing that. That’s the kind of culture piece we will be experiencing in our classroom… Also, in early October, this year, there is the autumn festival. I’m going to use that to introduce them to what Chinese people will do during that festival and the compare to Thanksgiving for what are the similarities and what are the differences.”
How have you liked your time in District 39 so far?
“I’ve been feeling very good, very positive. I just feel very lucky and very fortunate to be able to teach in the Wilmette school district. It is just everything I want to be able to do in my classroom and I have that freedom to do it. All of those cultural pieces. I feel very fortunate.”