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Learning to Teach from Observing and Reflecting

Junhao Zhao’19 is a Mandarin Chinese Teacher for students from fifth grade through eleventh grade. Graduating with degrees in Spanish and Education & Youth Studies, Junhao says the hands-on field experience from education classes at Beloit College was pivotal in his teaching experience.

Right after graduating from Beloit with degrees in Spanish and Education & Youth Studies, Junhao landed on his first job as a Mandarin Chinese Teacher at Middleton Cross-Plains Area School District. Junhao shared that he once had many different ideas about what he wanted to do after college, before he chose to commit to become a teacher.

Why did you decide to major in Education & Youth Studies at Beloit College?

Beloit College believes students learn the best with hands-on experience. Being part of our Education and Youth Studies program allowed me to gain a lot of field experience through our education classes. We were able to reflect on what we saw in the real classrooms and connect with our readings and discussions in class. I believe it was essential for students to reflect as we learn how to become teachers. Also, we have advisors from different fields. They were able to answer any questions and give advice. They don’t have to be your advisors to help you. All of the professors are very patient and knowledgeable. When I visited Beloit College as a high-schooler, I realized immediately it was the program for me.

Looking back to your time at Beloit, what do you think are the most impactful things that shaped who you are now?

When I was at Beloit, I always had different ideas on what I wanted to do when I graduate. I also changed my mind a lot. I think it was the conversations with my professors that helped me realized my skills and areas of improvement. Now, when I am looking back, I am grateful that I had my advisors to guide me through every step of the way. They made sure I have everything I needed to graduate, and also spent a lot of time to help me to achieve my personal goals.

What is your favorite aspect of your job?

My favorite aspect of my job is the variety of age groups. I teach 5th graders in the morning and high schoolers in the afternoon. I need to change up the activities and expectations. Because of that, it helps me to grow quickly as a new teacher. It also allows me to channel different levels of energy when I teach in different classes. I don’t just teach the same content five times.

Do you have any advisor/mentor in Beloit College that was an active support for you during your Beloit time and after Beloit?

Yes, and it wasn’t just one advisor. Every professor I had helped me. They are all very different people and they helped me with different things. Professor Bill was my education advisor. He always listened to my crazy ideas and made sure I had enough time and energy to accomplish the things I wanted to do. Professor Jingjing also helped me with every step of my licensure process. Professor Sonja supported me all the way through my student teaching. Therefore, it is hard to pinpoint one person that helped me specifically.

Can you share more about your current position now?

I think the coolest part of being a language teacher is that we can pull anything out of our daily life and make it a lesson. We can talk about anything. From our daily schedule to how many teeth our imaginary monster has. I mean, ANYTHING!

Do you have any advice for our student teachers to better prepare themselves to become a teacher?

Teaching is not easy. But it makes it harder if we are beating ourselves up. There are two things from my different mentors that helps me get through the day:

  1. “ Teaching is not a one-day task.”
  2. “ Every day is a new day”

There are a lot of programs online to get certified. They may also gain additional certification through graduate schools. If students are interested in teaching English overseas, they can join a Teaching English as a Foreign Language certification program after Beloit such as WTTP at Wisconsin ESL Institute in Madison, WI.

Linh Anh Le’20
March 09, 2020

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