Class Act: Chinese teacher Summer Pao

Afraaz Malick and Rahul Rupani

Born and raised in Taiwan, Upper School Chinese teacher Summer Pao always thought that she would teach English, one of her favorite subjects in school.

After attending grade school, Pao obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Chinese from Tsing Hua University.

“I was good at writing all along,” Pao said. “I just didn’t know that I would come to America to be a Chinese teacher.” 

After earning her Master’s Degree in Chinese from the University of Houston, Pao moved to Houston permanently in 2007 to translate best-selling American finance and physiology books into Chinese. Ultimately, her childhood dream of teaching drew her back into education.

“Even though it was great being a translator, I missed having that interaction with students and promoting Chinese,” Pao said. “I missed the sense of achievement and hearing kids scream and squeal when they are excited.”

Pao remembers an inspirational teacher who really opened her horizons. 

“That one teacher changed the whole spectrum for me,” Pao said. “I wanted to be that cool teacher. I wanted to be the teacher that kids can’t wait to go to the class. That’s why I make the classroom very colorful, welcoming and beautiful.” 

Pao credits her open mindset to growing up with friends from different parts of the world.

“We are not in a closed environment, so I encourage students to make friends of different kinds and be inclusive,” Pao said. 

Pao incorporates elements of the Chinese culture into her curriculum to make her class more engaging. In October, her students made mochi, a Japanese rice cake, to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival, a holiday in China and Vietnam.

“I want to start a new way of teaching Chinese and learning Chinese,” Pao said. “My method is to find joy and have fun in Chinese learning. The language is hard, but I can make it fun.”

Pao records her own songs and choreographs dances to help students practice their speaking skills.

“Ms. Pao is so dynamic, and she just loves teaching students so much that it was tremendously appealing to us,” Language Department Chair Aline Means said. “She is extremely creative in her lesson planning and makes sure that she reaches different types of learners.”