CASE's Professors of the Year love what they do

And it shows


By Margaret Juliano


Hong Gang Jin knows that learning a second language and culture can be intimidating. But she loves to watch the process unfold.

"When students start Chinese," she says, "their eyes show so much intimidation, as if they're thinking to themselves, 'What am I getting into?' But two years down the road, they're so confident, their language is fluent, and they have learned to look at the world differently. The contrast in their faces makes me feel so wonderful."

Jin grew up in China during the Cultural Revolution. Her first assignment prepared her well for the rigors of professorship. At the age of 18, she taught 60 students in one classroom. After teaching English at a university in the Shanxi Province, Jin participated in Oberlin College's teaching exchange program, where professors encouraged her to continue her studies.

She acquired a Master of Arts in English as a second language and a Ph.D. in educational psychology at the University of Illinois. This ultimately led her to a professorship at Hamilton College, where she currently teaches Chinese language, literature and culture.

Jin's love of teaching has prompted her to explore language pedagogy. Her findings&emdash;that students learn language better from multiple sources, including games, texts, and other eclectic methods&emdash;have led her to develop her own interactive multimedia programs that link textbooks, workbooks, videotapes, and audio tapes.

Because Jin believes the best way to learn Chinese is to immerse oneself in the culture, three years ago she collaborated with colleagues to create the Associated Colleges in China study abroad program for students from 20 colleges and universities.

Each year, 35 to 40 students live in Beijing for six months, taking seven courses (including a special language class) and participating in culturally enriching activities, such as meeting host families and travelling workshops for ACC's teacher and coordinates the theme-related curriculum.

With all of these educational endeavors on her plate, "Some people tell me, you're not normal, you work too much," Jin says. "But I don't think of it all as a burden. I don't feel pressure because I love what I do. I have the best job in the world. You must have passion and emotion to teach."