Hua Zhang: Portrait of a dedicated teacher of Mandarin Chinese

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Teacher Hua's Chinese calligraphy presentation at Syre elementary school

Mandarin teacher Hua Zhang has passionately cultivated Chinese language and culture in the Shoreline community for 12 years. Now she is developing an immersion Montessori Mandarin program for preschoolers

By Jenny Nguyen
with contributions from Sam Frederickson, Jingyi Wang, Linda Tsai, John Higgins, Susan Lovelace, and Hannah Peterson

“Hua has poured all her heart and soul into presenting the Chinese language as well as the culture, history, art, cuisine and everyday life revealed by the language. It has also been a great experience for her to take a second look at her native language and culture, to find out fascinating folklore that we used to take for granted, and to share it all with the American people.” –ZYZ

On an early February morning, Shoreline Mandarin teacher Hua Zhang packed two dragons, two lions, two big head dolls, ten fans, and twenty performance costumes into her car and drove to Meridian Park Elementary School to help students celebrate the 2018 Lunar New Year.

Hua and five parent volunteers helped students to change into traditional Chinese costumes, recording the kids’ excitement on their phones.

Then they joined two kindergarten classes in the annual dragon parade, bringing Lunar New Year best wishes to all of the school’s students and staff. They walked around the whole building, waving dragons and performing the lion dance to traditional Chinese music. Many students, teachers and staff members came out of their classrooms, excited to see the dragon parading by with three little boys performing the lion dance.

Chinese story time at Shoreline Library

When the parade ended, Hua hurried to drive all the costumes to her next stop, the Shoreline Library, so that the children to whom she read during “Chinese Story Time” could also celebrate.

During the past 12 years, Hua Zhang has been doing the same thing: teaching children who love learning the Chinese language, culture and art. A natural storyteller and a native Chinese Mandarin speaker, Hua is an award-winning public speaker, journalist, and editor. Ever since she arrived in the United States, she has been honing her teaching skills, developing a student-centered curriculum and engaging learning materials.

In addition to instruction in Chinese language and characters, she brings to life the rich and evolving history, customs and traditions, as well as important Chinese festivals, filled with stories, songs, and crafts.

Chinese cooking at Kellogg Middle School class

To further engage students in language development, she instructs the little linguists in Mandarin (and English when necessary) to make dumplings, noodles, egg rolls and pot stickers, and more – fun cooking activities that students particularly enjoy.

Hua has innovated beyond what she can gather from various Chinese textbooks and learning materials. She has developed her own teaching materials and curriculums for students of different ability levels and of different backgrounds. Additionally, Hua has created 142 magnets of basic Chinese puzzle strokes, 22 picture-writing books, 200 Chinese pictography words in calligraphy, plus calligraphy practice notebooks, diary/essay writing notebooks and all kinds of lesson worksheets.

Furthermore, Hua’s classroom is rich with Chinese calligraphy brushes, ink bars, ink stones, stamps, fans, Beijing Opera face, paper cutting, shuttlecock and folk-dance costumes, not to mentions an array of tailored student- sized dragon parade costumes, to enhance students’ learning experiences.

Morning Mandarin class at Meridian Park elementary

Putting her teaching tools to use, Hua started the first Shoreline Schools’ Mandarin program at Meridian Park Elementary in April of 2006. Her programs expanded to other public schools in Shoreline including Cascade K-8 (formerly Room Nine), Parkwood, Ridgecrest, Brookside, and Kellogg; the Shoreline Library; private schools; and Shoreline Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Services.

She has worked hard to sow the seeds of 5,000 years of rich history of Chinese culture and language in the hearts of countless children and has prepared them for the multicultural world of the future, many of whom continue to learn Mandarin in middle schools, high school and beyond.

In order to improve, broaden and enrich her teaching experience, Hua has participated in a Chinese Language Teacher Professional Development Training Program and other training seminars in Seattle, PSU, and Beijing. She loves working with schools, and she’s always willing to assist students and teachers with promoting diversity.

Teacher Hua substitutes in the Mandarin class at Shorewood High School.
Around her are some of her elementary school Mandarin class students 

In 2013, after Hua’s initial seven years of establishing Chinese culture and language in Shoreline, the school district decided to offer Mandarin language classes for secondary students. Excited that her students could now continue their Mandarin education, she felt that all her hard work had been valuable for the Shoreline community.

The district’s public information officer at the time, Mr. Craig Degginger, affirmed Hua’s dedication and commitment to Shoreline schools: “We are glad to be offering Mandarin language to our students. You should be proud of the role you have played in establishing that interest throughout the district.”

Chinese paper art at the cultural room
at the Shoreline Arts Festival

Ryan Stege, one of Hua’s students from a non-Chinese speaking household, has been earning straight A’s in his Einstein Middle School and Shorewood High School Mandarin classes. He deeply appreciated Hua’s preparation for his middle school and high school Mandarin learning:

“Attending Hua’s class is a fun time and she has prepared me for middle school and high school Chinese classes very well.”

Whether instructing children in her Mandarin studio, facilitating language immersive summer camps, providing before / after-school enrichment / club, reading Chinese stories to all ages of kids at the Shoreline Library, or substitute teaching Mandarin in Einstein middle school and Shorewood high school, Hua Zhang invites enthusiastic feedback from the community.

“Hua is very quick at building good relations with students, because she is cheerful, friendly, sociable, and treats students with trust and respect. At the same time, she sets high expectations for students and provides strong support in helping them meet those expectation. Hua has a tremendous amount of energy, is very detailed oriented and takes ownership for making sure thing are done right. I have been very impressed with the work she puts into her classes and how much the students learn.” -- Principal David L

Teacher Hua's Chinese cooking class at Meridian Park elementary school

“Hua has an excellent rapport with the children, while keeping them engaged with a mix of reading, writing, acting and singing and even integrating Chinese cuisine. She is open for parental feedback and will adjust her teaching depending on your desired emphasis for writing, reading, or speaking. Although Mandarin is a very challenging language to learn on a weekly basis, Hua is an excellent teacher and has expanded their vocabulary by over 350 characters. More importantly, my girls enjoy coming to their weekly Mandarin lessons.”--Mr. Kim L commenting on his kids’ Mandarin learning

It was impressive how Ms. Hua had a comical story to tell for every new vocabulary word she taught and how she made writing practice more interesting by allowing us to use her calligraphy brushes. 
She taught a difficult Chinese ancient poem into beautiful Chinese traditional brush painting. 
She could transform our class from being just language class into a true Chinese class as she effectively balanced and captured the essential essence of the language as well as the culture in all of her lessons. 
With such an captivating dedicated teaching style, it makes us admire the Chinese language and culture more; it was no surprise that all of us got almost perfect grades on our unit exam. --Comments from Einstein middle school and Shorewood high school Mandarin class students
Bringing Chinese art into the Mandarin class at
Shorewood High School

Looking ahead, what are Hua’s goals for herself professionally and her vision for Mandarin in Shoreline?

At the beginning of 2018, Hua finished six weeks as a substitute Mandarin teacher at Einstein and Shorewood. With a deep sense of conviction, she had concluded that the overall Mandarin skills of secondary school students could be further enhanced and improved. Throughout her teaching career, Hua has always believed that the most effective methods of learning language have revolved around opportunities for students to hear and speak Mandarin and to be exposed to Mandarin at earlier ages.

Afternoon Mandarin class at Meridian Park Elementary

After careful consideration, Hua has decided to apply a new set of Montessori teaching aids. Her goal: to develop a new immersive Montessori Mandarin learning program for the Shoreline community by combining Montessori methods with her 12 years of Chinese teaching experience.

Hua explains:

“Early childhood is the most sensitive period of language development. I will organically integrate Montessori educational concepts and methods with Chinese language learning tools in order to firmly capture this unique time of learning. 
"By using colorful teaching aids and daily practice sessions, I will provide young children with a new Chinese language and cultural learning environment that will make the study of Mandarin interesting and lively for them. 
"Furthermore, I want to engage children on this exciting journey of enrichment, maximize their interest in learning Mandarin, and establish a solid foundation for long-term learning of this language, as well as to support the development of the Chinese language courses at Shoreline schools.”

Cultural presentation at Ridgecrest Elementary school

What does the community think of Hua’s plans?

“It will be a fantastic opportunity for young children to learn Mandarin with Hua during their early formative years. My eldest daughter was 2.5 years old and my youngest daughter was 6 months old when they were exposed to Hua’s Mandarin story time at the Shoreline Library.

"We are not native speakers. My daughters are now 8 and 10 years old, and they are still taking Mandarin lessons with Hua. Learning a second language can be challenging, especially Mandarin, but Hua has developed a curriculum that keeps children interested and motivated as well as progressing rapidly in both oral and written Mandarin.” –Ms. Jasmine A

Teacher Hua’s contact information:

Website here


Anonymous,  June 4, 2018 at 5:42 PM  

I have known Hua for many years. Her devotion to teaching Chinese language and culture is well known in our community. I am happy to read this report and give her the credit she deserved. I am also happy to know so many American kids of all ages from all walks of life are exposed to Chinese language and arts.

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