ESL Teacher Feature: Yanyan Zhang

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

My name is Yanyan Zhang. I was born and raised in China. In 2012, I came to the U.S. and went to graduate school in southern California as an international student. Two years later, I got my master’s degree in TESOL and moved to Phoenix. I have been teaching ESL since 2015, and I could not be more honored and grateful to be part of the ESL department at Phoenix College.

What do you like most about teaching ESL students?

The background and experience my students and I share have always been my favorite part of being an ESL teacher. As a non-native speaker myself, my own learning experience has helped me a lot in understanding and connecting with my students. It is as much a pleasure to learn from them as it is to teach them. Their dedication and perseverance motivate me to be a better teacher than I was the semester before.  

What would your students say about you?

Optimistic and patient. I always reassure my students that we all are able to learn. Because of the differences in our backgrounds and strengths, we learn at different paces and in different styles, but we can do it! I am always willing to help and open to questions. 

What is your most memorable teaching experience?

It must be when everything clicks into place when students have been trying so hard to understand something. I find it easy to relate to them when challenges appear. That is why I present material in a way that is more understandable and relevant to them. It is so rewarding when they finally get it. 

What advice would you give to ESL students or to someone thinking about taking an ESL class?

I know from first-hand experience that it can take a while to learn a new language, so be patient with yourself. Things don't always go as expected. It is no different when it comes to learning English. Some concepts are easier to learn than others. It can be overwhelming. There will be disappointments and frustration. Let them strengthen you to try again rather than give up. Courage and determination will help you on your way. At the end of a semester, you will be amazed by how far you have come.