Take a step inside Pei-Yin Lee’s office and you’ll immediately get a taste of her Asian background. It clearly over runs the other half of the office, which lacks decoration and culture compared to her side.
A colorful red dragon’s head sits atop of her bookshelf staring down at you. Throughout her room there is Taiwanese and Chinese art, dolls, and a paper umbrella, hand painted by Lee herself.
While she has been getting accustomed to Vermont’s own culture and has enjoyed the scenery; there is one thing in particular that she misses about her home country most,
“The food!” Lee said.
Lee, who is from Taiwan, joined the Castleton Community for the next two years where she will teach students the language and culture of Mandarin Chinese, while simultaneously earning her master’s degree.
A long way from home, Lee is determined to bring some of her culture to Castleton.
“It would be interesting to share my language and culture with foreigner students … I think it’s important to know the whole world, like different cultures and countries and China has been a powerful country,” Lee said.
Very few English words are spoken in Lee’s classes, but that’s because her students are understanding the language.
“It’s really great. She knows how to break it down for us,” senior Emma Ofner said.
Of course, there is still a small language barrier between Lee and her students, but that’s okay. In fact, it gives everyone a good laugh now and then.
“I was trying to pronounce a word and the tone was off and it actually meant something inappropriate. She just started bursting out laughing, because I had no idea what I was saying. It was really funny,” Freshman Vanessa Robertson said.
In her classroom, name cards are placed in front of each student with their own Chinese name. Conversations are being held between professor and student, and student-to-student, in Mandarin Chinese.
Lee uses pictures to help students understand and makes sure everyone is on the same page; laughing off their mistakes and praising each student’s accomplishment, all in Mandarin Chinese of course.
But what does a Mandarin Chinese program offer Castleton? Delma Wood, a professor of Spanish, gave some insight.
“Offering Mandarin Chinese at CSC is solid proof that we are listening and preparing our students for a successful future in their work and personal environments,” Wood said. “We are extremely fortunate to Ms. Pei-Yin … She was selected to be here at CSC with us because of her beautiful personality, her responsive teaching strategies and wanting to be part of our team.”
After earning her master’s degree, Lee would love to teach Chinese at a college possibly in the United States. She describes her interactions with students as “wonderful.” Her love for teaching is clearly shown when she is in the classroom.
The Mandarin program will be offered at Castleton the next two years. If you do choose to take it, don’t worry, you’re in good hands. But, like Lee tells her students with a soft laugh, “Yes, it’s tricky!”