Fenwick Welcomes New Mandarin Teacher, Mr. Zhao

This year, the Fenwick community has welcomed the new Mandarin teacher, Mr. Zhao. Mr. Zhao is teaching the Mandarin classes here at Fenwick. He began working at Montessori Gifted Prep as a Mandarin teacher, in addition to being in charge of their language program. Mr. Zhao says passionately that “working with kids [ages] 3-6 gave me some insight into how a first language is acquired and what the implications are for second language acquisition.” He then went on to work at the International Mansion of Oak Park in a volunteer teacher role for Chinese, arts and coding. He also worked for the South-East Asia of Chicago Center as an ESL teacher for senior immigrants in his free time. When Mr. Zhao was earning his degrees, he taught Chinese children English for three summers at Mingying Cambridge English School and volunteered at Longxian No. 2 High School for English summer camp in July 2017. He now is at Fenwick, teaching three levels of Mandarin courses.

When asked what his experience has been like at Fenwick, he exclaimed, “The teachers have been very helpful and made it easy to adjust. Whenever I need any kind of help, they offer—no questions asked.” He was so excited to see how respectful the students at Fenwick were and ready to tackle any challenges that come their way. Mr. Zhao wants to make Mandarin enjoyable to all students. Joseph Olyva, one of Mr. Zhao’s Mandarin II students, shared, “Mr. Zhao always has fun and unique activities every day, which helps us learn Mandarin.” Mr. Zhao has always made it a priority to make the classroom an environment where all his students feel welcomed and delight- ed to be present and to learn.

All of Mr. Zhao’s students are looking forward to the new challenges that his classes will bring. Mr. Zhao has always been supportive of all of these hopes, and he loves to see his students being able to communicate in Chinese. One of Mr. Zhao’s students, senior Miamaya Parra, said, “Mr. Zhao always believes in our capabilities, even when we doubt ourselves. He is truly a happy teacher with a good heart.” Mr. Zhao has always had a passion for teaching, and seeing students being able to learn another language is what continues to push him every day. He felt that his previous experience teaching high school students made him feel that he always wanted to go back to teach at a high school at some point, and that’s exactly what he did. Mr. Zhao enjoys how high school students become independent learners and are intellectually challenged with languages and higher-level thinking.

Mr. Zhao has high hopes for the future. He has a lot of plans on how the Fenwick community can expand the Mandarin language to all. Mr. Zhao has just started the Mandarin Club at Fenwick, in hopes that it will encourage more students to explore Mandarin. When asked what he hopes for the students that are taking Mandarin or who plan to do so, Mr. Zhao points out, “I want the students’ needs to be fulfilled and [to ensure] that all can have successful journey[s] learning Mandarin.” He has always put his students first and wants to give them the best learning experience that he can. Mr. Zhao loves to see his students having a great time learning while still being on task. Xahil Gonzalez, one of Mr. Zhao’s Mandarin III students, noted, “He is always friendly and helps you when you may not understand material, and [he] is willing to walk through the steps with you. He creates a fun and calm environment to be in and makes every class with him enjoyable.” Students in Mr. Zhao’s classes are so thankful to have such a caring and motivating teacher.

Fenwick is so excited to have Mr. Zhao as the new teacher for all of Fenwick’s Mandarin courses this year. Students love him already and can’t wait to see what his classes bring. Fenwick is thrilled to see what the future holds and how the Mandarin programs will expand and the opportunities it will bring to all. Mr. Zhao, we wish you all the best at Fenwick and are looking forward to all your successes.