March 12, 2013
“The Rewards Are Long Term”
Carrie Jung is a strong and compassionate instructor in the EAP Department at Capilano, and her story serves as a reminder that staying positive in all that we do can bring long term rewards.
Carrie grew up in Vancouver—in Chinatown to be precise—in a Chinese language environment.
“My family wanted to preserve Chinese culture and traditions at home, and so neither of my parents used English at home. My mother didn’t speak English outside the home, so I had to go everywhere with her and translate,” Carrie explained.
“It was a lot of pressure, and I had to learn advanced English vocabulary at a young age to be able to communicate with the people my mother needed to talk with. Perhaps it all played a part in my becoming a language teacher—to help people to be able to use a second language to function independently in society.”
In university, Carrie planned to be a lawyer, but quickly found out that she was a natural at teaching when she had the opportunity to interact with ESL students at UBC. She enjoyed the experiences she had so much that the dream of becoming a lawyer fell by the wayside, and she took courses to become a full-time ESL instructor. However, Carrie found that what had originally attracted her to the legal profession could still be applied in ESL—being an advocate for people who needed assistance.
“I think that giving students the gift of learning to speak up for themselves in another language and in a different culture is the most rewarding thing I get from teaching. Sometimes the benefits students get from ESL may emerge twenty years later, but when I see that benefit, I am so happy,” Carrie says with a tear in her eye. Clearly she is moved by the experiences she has had helping her students.
Carrie goes on to explain the benefits of an ESL classroom.
“Just knowing that I am in a position to influence and change my students’ thinking so that I might help them change a stereotype they have or change a situation they are in is amazing. I see the classroom as having an atmosphere where students feel safe to come to me with their questions and problems, and they have permission from me as well as their classmates to raise the issues, exchange ideas and to ask questions. Sometimes, they get so involved in the discussion, they forget they are using English, and that is the best way to learn language!”
Carrie has faced challenges in her life. In 1995, she was diagnosed with heart failure, and she battled illness for seven years until she received a heart transplant in 2002. For three more years, she experienced health problems related to the transplant, but she is healthy and active today. Carrie sometimes tells her students about her health challenges when she thinks it will help them.
“I think it helps students to know that when we face difficult challenges in our lives, when things seem really bad, you can overcome. Struggling to learn English is like struggling to regain your health, and you have to keep trying and stay positive. If you believe you can, you will,” Carrie asserted.
In 2013, Carrie travelled to South Africa where she spent one week in Durban and two weeks driving around various parts of the country. She participated in the World Transplant Games in Durban, competing in the 100m, 200m, 4 X 100m relay races, and the long jump event. Since receiving her new heart, Carrie has taken part in many of these competitions, both in Canada and internationally. This summer, she competed at the Canadian Transplant Games in Moncton, New Brunswick, again medalling in the 100m, 200m, and long jump events..
In August this year, Carrie participated in a study tour with a group of faculty members from both Capilano University and Selkirk College. They travelled throughout many parts of Guatemala, meeting with people from all parts of society: students, teachers, health care workers, journalists, priests, and political advisors, as well as with volunteer workers from other countries. Because of the many opportunities to interact with local people in their culture and in their language, for Carrie, the trip was a life-changing and deeply emotional experience.
In addition to her teaching, Carrie is focusing on developing the EAP Department’s “community engagement” initiative to encourage students to gain language and cultural experience by interacting outside the classroom. Activities may include volunteer work or going to talks and performances in the community.
Carrie says she has always loved volunteer work and wants to share her joy about it by giving her students the opportunity to serve others.
“Working in the community is much less structured than the classroom. It’s a place where students can meet new people, emulate them, imitate them, and even be exposed to ideas that they may think are strange. Maybe you have positive or negative experiences, but in the end, you are learning. You are learning about their ideas. You are learning common everyday language that you may not hear in a classroom. Finally, doing volunteer work in the community is an opportunity where you can contribute something to the world.”
Carrie just completed 17 years of service
at Capilano, and during her entire career, she has seen students married, have
children, and build their lives. She was
even invited to take a tour of the United Nations in New York City by a former
Cambodian student who later worked for his country’s foreign ministry there.
“Ultimately, when I think of my career as an ESL teacher, I have to say that the best part is that the rewards are long term.”