HNC Alumnus Gives Back to His Community as High School Mandarin Chinese Teacher

HNC Alumnus Gives Back to His Community as High School Mandarin Chinese Teacher

Henry M. Pereira Jr., HNC Certificate '16, shares how his study of the Chinese language led him to a career in higher education as an AP Mandarin Teacher at the Academy of the Pacific Rim in Boston, MA.

Tell us a bit more about your career and your current role.

I teach high school Mandarin at The Academy of the Pacific Rim (APR), the school I attended in high school. I teach Mandarin at the intermediate level and higher, including AP Mandarin. I am also the teacher advisor for the National Chinese Honors Society Chapter at the school. I have taken lead roles in creating curriculum for the Mandarin Department and helped create a vision for what a high school student should be able to achieve after taking 4 years of Mandarin.

I decided to teach Mandarin for a few years after leaving the HNC for a few reasons. First, I wanted the students at APR to become genuinely interested in Mandarin so that they can take advantage of a rare opportunity. When I attended APR, a lot of the students did not take advantage of their Mandarin classes, which was the only language taught at the school. I took advantage of the exchange programs offered at the school and took the course seriously, which led to many opportunities opening up for me. I wanted students coming from a similar background as mine to take advantage of the Mandarin program so that they too can have opportunities presented to them for knowing how to speak Mandarin. I wanted them to realize that there is more to the world than just Boston and their local neighborhoods. This provided me an opportunity to give back to my community.  

Second, as a teacher, I would be able to learn Mandarin from a different perspective. I had taken many years of Mandarin language courses since I was 13, took courses taught in Mandarin at the HNC, and now I had the opportunity to teach Mandarin. Through teaching, I gained the ability to deconstruct and dissect the Mandarin language so that I can teach another person how to use the language. This gave me another perspective on how to use and further understand the different components of the Mandarin language. 
Last, I wanted to expose my students to the international community. I knew that not all of my students would enjoy learning Mandarin and learning of the Chinese culture, but I wanted this to at least be a gateway for them to become interested in learning about other foreign cultures. If any of my students decided that they were not interested in learning Chinese culture, they were at least exposed to another culture and intrigued to learn more about international communities.
Part of my role is also to attend exchange trips to China as a chaperone. This is one of the most fruitful parts of my role because not only is the trip paid for by my school, but I also get to see my students interact with Chinese culture. We spend a lot of time in class learning of Chinese culture, but now they can experience the culture first hand. This is one of the most enjoyable experiences I have as a teacher.
How often do you use Chinese in your current position and/or other skills you gained while studying at the HNC?
One of the reasons I decided to teach Mandarin is that it would help me practice my Mandarin. I use Chinese everyday in my current position. It helps keep my Chinese language skills from going completely dull. The highest level of Mandarin that I teach, AP Mandarin, doesn’t come close to my level of Mandarin, but it is still better than nothing. 
What is a favorite memory of yours from your time at the HNC?
One of my favorite memories from my time at the HNC was when the majority of students competed against each other in teams as the different Hogwarts houses from Harry Potter. We were assigned to a Hogwarts house based on a quiz. The competitions were very enjoyable and it helped build the culture of the HNC that academic year. It served as a stress reliever from focusing on classes and building our professional careers. Playing these games with and against my other HNC classmates allowed us to connect and learn of each other outside of a classroom setting. It reminded us to enjoy our time at the HNC while we were there and that it was ok to take a break from our studies. At the HNC, the classes are enjoyable and everyone takes their courses very seriously, but everyone needs a break at some point to relieve stress. This was a perfect and fun way of doing that.

What is one piece of advice you have for current or future HNC students?
One piece of advice I have for current or future HNC students is to take full advantage of what the HNC has to offer. Build relationships with your professors and classmates, and be active with the HNC’s career program so that you can achieve your professional goals. This will help you build the necessary connections to be successful at the HNC and after you leave the HNC. The HNC also offers a robust cultural experience. The HNC wants you to interact with different cultures and to learn of them. The HNC holds different cultural events for everyone to enjoy, but you can also seek these opportunities outside of the HNC with your classmates. You and your classmates are great resources inside and you are all part of what the HNC has to offer. The HNC offers much more than just a graduate education and professional development. You want to take advantage of everything the HNC has to offer before your time comes to an end at the HNC.

The HNC is now 35 years old. What do you see as the value of the HNC in the next 35 years?

The value of the HNC in the next 35 years lies within the cooperation between the American and Chinese graduate students. The relations between the United States and China has been a roller coaster ride of negatives and positives. If we want to foster more positive relations, there needs to be more cooperation between both countries. The HNC’s role of bringing students from both countries together to learn from each other and learn of our different perspectives is ideal for creating positive relations between the U.S. and China. The HNC helps create leaders for both countries, who have learned how to cooperate with people who have different ideologies. By cooperating with one another, the American and Chinese students can break cultural barriers to focus on important issues related to politics, economics, social issues, environmental change, etc. HNC graduates have the ability to influence the U.S.-Chinese relations at a time when those relations have become the most fragile. This is the value of the HNC in the next 35 years.