Meet the Teacher: Joan Cui Takes Over TNCS’s Chinese Immersion K/1st Classroom!

Rounding out the second floor of The New Century School‘s building south, this post features Kindergarten/1st grade teacher Jingqiong “Joan” Cui!

As promised, Immersed has been highlighting the younger student divisions this spring (see posts on preschool, K/1st, and the preschool/lower elementary coordinator), and with this post, we introduce Cui Laoshi, who joined TNCS for the 2021–2022 school year.

Meet Jingqiong “Joan” Cui!

Cui Laoshi arrived in Baltimore in 2015 from Chongqing in Shanxi Province, China, about a 3–4-hour car ride from Beijing. She explains that she had just graduated college, but there was a job shortage, so she decided to come to the United States to improve her proficiency with the English language. “I had no real plans,” she said. “I thought I would stay maybe 2 or 3 months, finish my language learning, and then go back to China to find a job, but it didn’t happen.” She was accompanied by a close friend and her son, and all three were education-minded. The son attended high school here, and Cui Laoshi and her “cousin” enrolled in language classes at Notre Dame of Maryland University here in Baltimore.

Cui Laoshi says that she always knew she would work in the field of education but wasn’t sure in exactly what role. “I just knew I wanted to work in education,” she said. “I got a Master’s degree from Towson University in instructional technology in 2019. No matter what I was studying, it was all around education.”

Cui Laoshi at TNCS!

And here we are! Cui Laoshi says that she began as an assistant at TNCS in January, 2020, just a month after earning her graduate degree. She joined then-primary teacher Maria Mosby’s classroom and got her first taste of the Montessori method. “It was a new teaching style for me,” she said, “as I had only known traditional education before. I learned it step by step.” She is grateful to TNCS for giving her the opportunity to learn something new and to grow as an educator.

Of course, soon after she adopted her new role as assistant teacher, TNCS shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Cui Laoshi was ready, though, and used her instructional technology expertise to create videos to teach students during the lockdown. These were language themed as well as crafty—young children love to make things with their hands! She also helped edit videos that other teachers made. “Using technology is helpful for teaching. Every teacher uses technology tools and equipment to improve teaching quality,” she said.

With the start of the 2021–2022 school year and the teaching vacancy left by Ge Laoshi when she assumed her new Curriculum Coordinator role, Cui Laoshi got her own Chinese immersion homeroom class and a promotion to lead teacher. “It’s challenging because I’m a totally new teacher, but I’m really excited,” she said. She also has some totally new subject matter to teach: in addition to teaching Mandarin Chinese, she also teaches Global Studies and Science . . . in Chinese. For this, she had to translate a lot of materials into Chinese. She says her students gave adapted very well, and that in the beginning she taught these core subjects in 60% English and 40% Chinese but has since progressed to 80% Chinese. Her methods are ingenious: she works the necessary GS and Science vocabulary into her language class, so her students have a foundation to build knowledge on, all 15 of whom are learning Mandarin for the first time.

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She now has ample opportunities to incorporate technology in her classroom. She uses apps   like WordWorld, for example, to “make words come alive” for her K/1st students who are just beginning their reading journeys. She also finds tools that help them practice writing. Other “tools,” like stickers, reinforce positive learning experiences.

As for what she likes best about TNCS, one special aspect is that she gets more than 1 year to get to know her “loving and warm” students, some of whom she knew from the primary classroom and will have them for 2 years in her homeroom. This makes for a lot of beautiful memories, she says. She also has made lots of new friends among her colleagues.

Cui Laoshi’s desire to educate is clear, and because she knows her students are hungry to learn, she pushes herself to do her best for them, such as preparing more materials to engage them. “There’s two things I know,” she said “they still need to work hard and to improve, and I’m so proud of them.”

When she does allow herself time to relax, she likes to play card games with friends and to travel around the country, which has been curtailed lately. She enjoys the Mid-Atlantic area best but has also visited Boston, New York City, Las Vegas, and so on. One day soon, she hopes to resume her exploration of the United States.

In the meantime, she continues striving to be the best teacher she can be and to encourage her students. “I may not have a lot of teaching experience yet,” she said, “but I have a lot of love. I always remind myself that I’ll get more teaching experience because the kids are giving it to me.” That’s really a very wonderful insight—that, in teaching, she is also learning.

Welcome to TNCS, Cui Laoshi!

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