Despite k-12 education being turned upside down as a pandemic closed the doors of many U.S. schools and lent learning into the hands of technology in the middle of the spring semester, College Board’s Advanced Placement exams didn’t falter.
AP students wanting to earn college credit continued their studies from home to prepare for a new online format of the exam. While technology is typically turned off and buried in student backpacks during AP testing, Proximity Learning Chinese teacher Hsin-wei Grace Chang said she had students take the AP Chinese exam on their cell phones this past spring.
“This year’s really, really different from the previous years,” Chang said. “A lot of pressure, but, at the same time, it increased the bonding of the teacher and the students. … I think our relationship [is] even better because they are used to having Chinese class online.”
As a teacher for online education company Proximity Learning, Chang had been teaching her AP Chinese students online since the start of the school year. When schools closed due to COVID-19, her students were already familiar with the enriched live instruction model. 79% of Chang’s students said there wasn’t any noticeable change in their online learning experience with her when they transitioned to learning from home, according to an anonymous student survey conducted by Proximity Learning.
“It is my favorite class,” said one of Chang’s students in their survey response. “Learning is going well as always.”
When Chang received the grade report for the AP Chinese exam, she was very excited by the success of her students. Out of the 41 students from her classes at Frisco ISD that took the exam, 40 of them scored a passing rate of a 3 or higher.
“I really appreciate this opportunity [to] teach AP Chinese at PLI,” Chang said. “We started designing [the] AP Chinese curriculum in 2016, so just four years and our students got such a successful result in an AP exam. That’s very encouraging.”
Through education, Chang said she has been able to fulfill her dream of sharing what she knows about the Chinese language and culture with others. She said she especially enjoys the challenge of sharing a different perspective with her students.
“I keep telling my students the language reflects what the people think,” Chang said. “If you ask me why the Chinese language is so different from the English language, other Western languages or other languages, that’s because the way Chinese people think is different.”
For students in her upper-level classes, she challenges them with more discussions about the reasoning for what they are learning because they already know some Chinese.
“I’ll ask them, ‘What do you think? Why do Chinese people have this kind of practice? Why do Chinese people use this kind of language? [Why does] the sentence structure look like this?’” Chang said. “In order to give them the fish, I think it’s better to teach them how to fish.”
Chang has been teaching with Proximity Learning since it was formerly known as My Chinese 360 in 2011. She said she was the first Chinese teacher the company hired in the United States and has since worked on the curriculum development team to build the Chinese 1, 2, 3, 4, and AP Chinese curriculum.
“Teaching is my passion,” Chang said. “I enjoy sharing what I know about Chinese language and culture with people. … I think to teach is a way to touch people's lives. I believe there is no greater joy than teaching.”
My Chinese 360 began with a Chinese program, and as more languages were added to the program Chang said the name changed to My Language 360. She said they tried different platforms and technology to improve their teaching while designing their curriculum. After becoming Proximity Learning, she said the company gained an increasing number of courses and electives.
“I think this company has a bright future,” Chang said. “The goal of this company is to offer qualified teachers to students, and I really appreciate teamwork in this company. I think that’s very precious, and that will be one of the reasons why this company becomes so successful.”