Trilingual Teacher’s Life Is Like a Fairytale

WJ Chinese teacher Songtao Shus goal is for her students to be able to use the knowledge they gain about Chinese beyond the classroom.

Photo by Marissa Nardella

WJ Chinese teacher Songtao Shu’s goal is for her students to be able to use the knowledge they gain about Chinese beyond the classroom.

Izzy McMullen, Staff Writer

Songtao Shu, a Chinese teacher at WJ, never thought she would  become a teacher at a school in the U.S. teaching Chinese to high school students.

Shu started teaching in China at the age of 22. She graduated from college with an undergraduate degree in German linguistics, sinology, foreign language education. She also has a dual Master Degree of the Free University of Berlin, Germany. After two years, Shu decided to go abroad and teach in Germany. While she was there, she was an interpreter and translator in addition to teaching Chinese and German, working for the Berlin government, and organizing the cultural exchange programs.

She came to the U.S. in 2006, when she followed her husband here for his job.

After a few years of learning English, she decided to go back to school at the University of Maryland, where she studied to become a Chinese teacher.

“The reason I decided to become a teacher was due to my major in German linguistics. I really wanted to introduce more people to foreign language and when I came here I thought teaching Chinese was a good start. I could teach German but Chinese is my native language and I know the content and I feel more confident when I teach Chinese, ” Shu explained.

She has been working here for 4 years, and has been teaching all levels of Chinese, from the basics of Chinese 1 to Chinese 4. Upon reaching Chinese 4, students are considered to be in the Chinese Honor Society because of the high knowledge of the language.

“I never dreamed I would come here,” said Shu.

Shu always thought she was just like any other Chinese teacher looking for a job, but something about her made her stand out as a fantastic and involved foreign language teacher.

“Actually I got two school offers, and this one was very close to where I live.  And when I drove by I always said, “one day I will become a teacher there.” I always say I’m lucky to be a teacher here. We have very good communication among teachers and teachers and students,” she said.

Shu has liked it here ever since she became an official part of the staff. It has been her first and only workplace here in the U.S. Shu has had high expectations for her students as she guides them through their years of taking Chinese.

“I really want my students to be able to use this knowledge beyond high school. My goal for Chinese learners is when they grow up, they will have the ability to learn the language further on their own,” said Shu.

Shu added that it is a challenging job, but is especially rewarding when former students come back to WJ and tell her that they are still studying Chinese.

“I feel more comfortable right now here. In China, I just graduated and I was young and in Germany, I was an interpreter and still a student but I had no family there. We had a family when we came here, so it is settled down for me right now,” she said.