It is hard to guess that 34 year-old Hsu Jen-pin (徐仁斌), the always smiling director of academic affairs at Wulun Junior High School in Keelung, grew up in a family that struggled to make ends meet.
Hsu was among the six people honored at an event held by the Taiwan Fund for Children and Families (TFCF) on Saturday to commend people from disadvantaged families who have been able to overcome adversity and succeed in life.
Hsu was one of the six children. His father fell ill with a lung disease when Hsu was young and his mother struggled to support the family by delivering newspapers and working as a hairdresser.
When he was in fifth grade, Hsu began receiving financial support from the fund because the government subsidies to his family were insufficient to keep them afloat. His situation did not discourage him from striving for excellence, it motivated him to work harder and to do better in school, he said.
In high school, he would often “help” reluctant classmates to attend after-school English classes, which he could not afford, he said.
As a result, his English skills improved greatly, he said.
Although his exam scores were good enough to get him into National Taiwan University’s College of Law, he chose to attend National Taiwan Normal University — a teacher’s college — because he thought education was important.
After graduating with a master’s degree in education, Hsu served as the leader of a students’ professional planning division at Wulun High School, and later as the director of academic affairs. During that period, he helped about 60 students per year receive vocational training, helped more than half of the school’s students enter public high schools and enhanced student counseling services.
He received a special teacher’s award in 2009 from the Keelung City Government.
Hsu said that the idea of becoming a teacher began to form in his mind when he was young. He recalled that one of his elementary-school teachers, Chiang Cheng-chi (江正吉), who often gave him a lift home after school, once bought him eight meat dumplings to take home to share with his family. The gesture planted a seed in his heart and later motivated him to become a teacher himself, he said.
The idea was cemented after his TFCF sponsor Chin He-tzu (秦鶴慈) sent him a pencil box from Tokyo Disneyland 20 years ago. He said he still has the pens even though they ran out of ink a long time ago.
The pens remind him of where he came from and that he was once helped by others, he said.
“I cherish this memory and hope that I can pass on this love to many other people,” Hsu said.