Tsai Fang-ling, a Chinese language teacher at Chung Gang Senior High School in Taichung, has been teaching for 23 years. Ten years ago Tsai took on unpaid volunteer work providing additional tutoring for students from disadvantaged backgrounds during the evening study session. Every day she works a 13-hour day at the school, but in addition to preparing for and teaching lessons, and assisting disadvantaged students during the evening, Tsai can also be found at lunch time serving lunch to students. As a result, students affectionately call Tsai “Auntie lunch lady.” This year, Tsai’s contribution to her profession was honored by the Ministry of Education with an Excellent Teacher Award, making her the first teacher to be presented with the award since the school’s founding 26 years ago, to the delight of students and teachers.
Tsai, who grew up in rural Yunlin County, decided she wanted to become a teacher while at elementary school, and after entering the profession Tsai threw herself into her classes. This year marks 18 years since Tsai started teaching at Chung Gang Senior High School, and her services to the teaching profession have been recognized with the award. School principal Chou Wen-sung says Tsai spends 13 hours at the school every day, yet in addition to her volunteer work and lesson preparation, Tsai also helps students prepare for the International Exhibition for Young Inventors competition. Two years ago, a group of students led by Tsai became the first Taiwanese students to win the competition’s “team achievement award.”
Tsai says that children need to be nurtured: “The essential guiding philosophy for my teaching style is learning with love, companionship and joy,” she says.
Photo: Chang Hsuan-che, Liberty Times
As for Tsai’s custom of helping to serve food during lunchtime, she says morphing into a lunch lady to feed hungry students during the lunch break is the happiest time of her day because it gives her an opportunity to converse with every student in her class. Tsai adds that most students are quite happy for her to be there dishing up their lunch. The school’s director of student affairs, Wang Chih-yu, says during Tsai’s 18 years of unbroken service at the school as a homeroom teacher, she has always treated students as if they were her own children.
There are many disadvantaged children at the school who are unable to attend cram schools and every evening Tsai helps them with their individual studies. One such student, Lu Kuan-lung, stayed behind at the school every evening for individual study. With Tsai’s assistance, Lu gained admission to National Cheng Kung University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering and went on to study a masters degree at National Taiwan University. Tsai says that Lu’s success made all the years she has spent mentoring students feel all the more worthwhile.
(Translated by Edward Jones, Taipei Times)
Photo: Chang Hsuan-che, Liberty Times
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