A special education teacher in Taipei has been honored by the National Federation of Teachers’ Unions with this year’s “Super Teacher Award” for his dedication to his job. Despite the accolades, Tseng Chih-hung (曾智泓) says that he is “just an ordinary teacher. It’s these kids who make me feel like I should try to do extraordinary work.”
Tseng, a physical education teacher at Wenshan School of Special Education, said that because each of his students has different needs, he modifies his teaching methods to suit them.
“Although my students and I face many challenges, we never give up. It’s the children who help me grow and push me to find better ways of providing special education,” Tseng said.
When Tseng was a child, his uncle, who is deaf, had to travel for two hours from his home in Nantou County’s Lugu Township (鹿谷) to the then-Taichung, where he attended special-education classes. That prompted Tseng to consider how he could help people with mental and physical disabilities.
While in college, he worked as a volunteer for a social welfare organization and was overwhelmed by his experiences.
“It was the first time I faced a group of people with varying physical and mental disabilities. It was totally different than just dealing with my uncle,” he said.
“In truth, when I finished university, I did not have a clear goal. Once I passed the examination for special education training, my family encouraged me to follow through with it, and supported me when I started teaching at the Wenshan School of Special Education,” he said.
“Maybe it was fate. My career allowed me to meet these little angels. They made me more determined to continue on this path,” the 33-year-old said.
About the students under his charge Tseng said: “They are real angels, very innocent. When dealing with them, you do not need to be cunning and there is no need for second-guessing.”
Tseng said most people do not know how to deal with children with special needs, so they are scared of or discriminate against them.
“Once you get to know them, these kids are more straightforward than most other students. It is easier to be yourself and be relaxed around them,” he said.
For many students with special needs, the goal of physical education is staying fit and healthy and improving their body coordination to adapt to future employment opportunities.
Although Tseng is not trying to make his students achieve athletic excellence, he said everyday is a big challenge.
“The kids have different conditions and needs that reveal to me my own shortcomings,” he said.
To make all of his classes a success, he researches new ways of teaching that are suitable for special education.
For example, Tseng instructs students who are blind through physical contact, so they can learn good movement.
For the hearing impaired, he demonstrates first, then the students imitate his actions.
Students with mental disability often have memory problems and forget what they have been instructed to do. For these students, Tseng often repeats the instructions and phrases them in simple terms.
“However much you put into your classes, the students return it to you in equal amount,” he said.
He said he once taught an autistic child who had problems controlling his emotions. Whenever this student was interrupted, he would become aggressive and attack his fellow students.