A Journey of Discovery for Teacher and Students

Ping Huang, MAT ’19, helps develop global citizens

As a child in China, Ping Huang ‘19 knew she would leave her rural village to pursue her education. But she didn’t expect the journey to take her to the U.S., where she became the first Chinese-language teacher in an innovative Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) program in upstate New York.

Huang received her Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) from Clarkson University in June. That same month, she finished a yearlong teaching internship at the Pathways in Technology Early College High School (PTECH) program of Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery BOCES. This fall, she will return to PTECH to teach Chinese full-time.

The PTECH model emphasizes collaboration and hands-on learning and encourages students to take the lead in their education and career paths. Students take college-level credit-bearing courses starting in ninth grade and, over four to six years, simultaneously earn their Regents diploma plus an associate degree from Fulton Montgomery Community College.

“I want them to learn so many things, starting with reading, writing, speaking and listening to Chinese. I also want them to develop resilience and realize that it’s okay to make mistakes as long as you keep on trying."

Ping Huang '19

Ping Huang by Elizabeth DeMars
Photo by Elizabeth DeMars, communications specialist for HFM PTECH.

PTECH is an ideal setting for Huang, who repeatedly broke new ground during her internship year. Typically, teaching-interns follow an established curriculum. Instead, Huang developed the Chinese language program from scratch. In addition to language skills—reading, writing, comprehending, and speaking Mandarin—Huang included lessons on Chinese history and culture.

“I wanted to provide my students with a broader view, to introduce the language and culture to help prepare students to become global citizens,” she says. As an example, Huang cites lessons on the similarities and differences between Chinese and American family life. “My students came to see that the differences are superficial,” Huang says, “and deep inside, we are the same.”

By the end of the school year, Huang’s influence had been felt throughout PTECH, where many staff members can now understand and speak at least a few words of Mandarin.

Ping Huang teaching students

During a visit to PTECH to observe and evaluate Huang’s performance in the classroom, Sherri Duan, Ph.D., Clarkson assistant professor and director of the MAT in Chinese Program, was struck by how much her student had achieved.

“Ping built relationships with her students and earned their trust, and that’s very important,” Duan says. “She made the classes fun and she made her students think. Almost everyone I met, including teachers and a secretary, told me that Ping had been teaching them Chinese words every day.”

Duan and Patricia Rand, assistant professor, Clarkson Education Department, were so impressed that they recommended Huang for the 2019 Resident of the Year Award from the National Center for Teacher Residencies (NCTR). Huang was one of 22 NCTR nominees nationwide.

“She was an international student, working in her second language, developing a curriculum from the ground up and teaching in a very nontraditional high-tech school,” Rand says. “That merits recognition.”

Huang gives much of the credit to the Clarkson MAT program and its combination of strong curriculum and personal support. “They want you to have success and quality of life, and I appreciate that,” she says. “If you have questions, you can call—even at night.”

At the recommendation of Catherine Snyder, Ph.D., chair of the Education Department, Huang took two years to complete the program. 

“That gave me more time to digest the content, reflect on what I learned and incorporate it in the classroom,” she says. “At first, I was worried, because I’d never taught in an American school. But I used the lessons that I learned from my professors, and those lessons helped give me confidence.”

“I owe one-third of my teaching skills to Changde Teacher’s College, another third to Clarkson University, and the remaining third to my parents.”

Ping Huang '19

From a remote Chinese village to New York’s Capital Region

Huang grew up in southern China, in a remote village two hours from the nearest city. Her father was a village officer. Her mother was the principal in the local school, and Huang’s decision to become a teacher is rooted, in part, in her mother’s love for her students. 

Always, though, was a desire to do even more, to explore. Huang attributes that to an uncle who was the first in their family to leave the village and attend university in Beijing. 

Ultimately, Huang would follow in his footsteps and continue her education in the capital. First, however, she took what was then a common path for primary and secondary school teachers in China. After completing middle school in 1997, Huang went on to earn an associate degree in 2002 in primary education at Changde Teacher’s College (now Hunan College for Preschool Education). At the same time, through self-study, she earned a bachelor’s degree in Chinese language and literature from Hunan Normal University.

“I spent the best years of my life at Changde Teacher’s College,” Huang recalls. “I owe one-third of my teaching skills to the college, another third to Clarkson University, and the remaining third to my parents.”

After four years as a head teacher in Hunan province, Huang moved to Beijing to pursue a master’s in modern and contemporary Chinese literature from Capital Normal University. In Beijing, she met her future husband, Shiguo Jiang. The couple moved to Columbus, Ohio, so Jiang could pursue a Ph.D. at The Ohio State University. They came to the Capital Region, with their young son, in 2014 when Jiang joined the faculty of the University at Albany, State University of New York. A year later, their daughter was born.

“I never imagined coming here,” Huang says. “I thought I would explore China.”

Instead, she is taking her students on a journey, helping them learn Chinese and explore their place in the world. 

“I want them to learn so many things, starting with reading, writing, speaking and listening to Chinese,” Huang says. “I also want them to develop resilience and realize that it’s okay to make mistakes as long as you keep on trying.

“I hope they remember the spirit of the Chinese culture and the positive mindset of their teacher,” she adds. “And I want them to see, from what we’ve done in the classroom together, that when you empower and support others, you empower yourself.”

Clarkson's Master of Arts in Teaching program prepares graduates for careers in secondary education. The program can be completed in one to two years, requires a yearlong teaching internship—and has had a 100% placement rate for the past three years.

More Stories: Student Profile