The Blue & Gold spoke to four new teachers on staff this year on their passions, lifestyles, and returning to Taipei.
From the age of 22, Ms. Jen-Ching Kao spent years away from her home in Taipei. She pursued a Masters’ degree in education at Johns Hopkins University and worked as a finance expert in San Francisco, until finally returning to Taiwan to teach in 2012.
For her, this abrupt change across continents and careers was a return “home” in more ways than one: Ms. Kao had been a teacher and tutor for members of her community since she was 17 years old.
“Over the years I have explored several career paths,” says Ms. Kao. “But eventually I’ve come to realize that nothing feels more rewarding than watching my students learn and grow as a result of the support I provide them.”
In fact, one of Ms. Kao’s favorite memories from Taiwan was when a group of her former students surprised her last year with a handmade thank-you card. “While I was talking to them, I realized that inspiration and compassion motivates students more than any other kind of instruction. I was happy to help them grow as students and people.”
For Ms. Kao, Math is a subject that is especially important for students to engage in. “These skills are needed everywhere in our lives, from everyday finances and accounting to careers in business, economics, technology, and science,” she says. “And math uniquely gives a thrill and confidence to every student every time they solve a math problem entirely on their own.”
For the next academic year, Ms. Kao will be teaching Algebra I and II.
From early on in life, Dr. David Gabriel nurtured a fascination with languages and cultures which surpassed the limitations of his access. While he had already begun to pursue a Medieval Literature and History degree at the University of Cambridge, some areas of the world remained closed off to him.
“Growing up in a small town on the far edge of Europe in the 1970s and 80s,” he says, “it was rare to hear even a few phrases of Chinese language. If a book on Chinese art or literature appeared in the library I treated it as a great treasure.” So when the Taiwanese government offered him a chance to study Chinese for a year, Dr. Gabriel jumped at the chance. “I simply had to. And having my spent time here in Taiwan, my initial interest in Chinese things naturally extended to an interest in specifically Taiwanese aspects of culture.”
Dr. Gabriel continued the rest of his studies across several U.S. institutions. He returns to Taiwan as a TAS teacher in Honors American Literature, Honors Contemporary Literature, and Honors English for the first time in over twenty years. As he transitions between working as a university professor and a high school teacher, Dr. Gabriel hopes to find many commonalities between his teaching approaches. “Ultimately, the experience centers on the same basic relationship,” he says. “I want you as students to develop your intellectual and emotional autonomy, and if you’re willing to let me I will do whatever I can to help you achieve that. All the rest is details.”
Mr. Ryan Haynes combined his love of travel and teaching when he began a teaching journey internationally across Asia and the Middle East. Mr. Haynes’s life in Taiwan and at TAS was a beginning point in his career, and now he returns as a director of Academic and Personal Counseling.
Earlier on, he had been a counselor for the International School of Bangkok and The American International School of Muscat, among others.
“I decided to work at TAS because it’s a great school with a great reputation,” he says. “It has wonderful teachers and students, and great facilities and resources. TAS is a place where I will grow as an educator.”
“I love the people, the scenery, the easy access to outdoors,” says Mr. Haynes. “I’m excited to re-join the community.”
When Mr. Christopher Ciambarella took up a research position at Hualien’s Tzu Chi Buddhist University, he quickly grew roots in Taiwan that he could have never anticipated. “I was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, so it will always be my hometown,” says Mr. Ciambarella. “But now I consider myself as having two homes: the U.S., and also Hualien where I lived many years, got married, and started my family.”
After 10 years of living in Taiwan in an idyllic mountainside home, Mr. Ciambarella and his partner, TAS Mandarin instructor Ms. Li Chen Tsai, decided to move back to the U.S. This school year marks the family’s return to Taiwan after seven years abroad.
Mr. Ciambarella will be teaching U.S. History and AP U.S. History. “I equally love and am fascinated by both U.S. and Taiwanese history and culture,” he says. “It’s funny: when I am in U.S. schools, I most enjoy teaching World History and World Religions courses so I can teach American kids about Taiwan and Asian culture. But when I am in Taiwan I most enjoy teaching U.S. History and culture. I enjoy showing students how U.S. History really is a great experiment unique in human history, where different peoples and cultures from all over the world are trying to come to together in the USA to create a true democracy of, by, and for all peoples.”
Ultimately, Mr. Ciambarella hopes that through this instruction, he will be able to help students use this knowledge for political awareness and advocacy. “I love to show students that we are part of this wonderful experiment ourselves,” he says. “We can help make it a truer reality.”
A version of this article was featured in the August print issue of The Blue & Gold, under the title “Welcome Home!”