Yan Wang

Bartlett High School, Anchorage School District
Anchorage, AK
2019 Finalist from PNCFL

Language is what makes us human. Language is like air, water and food, that we cannot live without. Language brought me from a remote mountain town in southwestern China to a university in Beijing. Then, thirty years ago, language paved the way for me to cross the Pacific Ocean to the great state of Alaska. Language gave me the opportunity to find my passion for teaching and the privilege to work with the young people of Alaska.

I was lucky that when I was presented with the opportunity to learn the English language, I took it. I hopped on the train of learning another language. I have been on this thrilling ride ever since. It has never stopped and it will never stop. Now it is my turn to pass the luck on to others.

Everyday I am grateful when I walk into my classroom. I feel privileged to have the students sitting in front of me. I am happy to report that language has helped send a few young students across the Pacific Ocean to China, to explore, and to learn. When they used their language with the locals, and received positive responses, they knew they were on the right track. This is extremely near and dear to my heart, because now I have opened the eyes for a few and hopefully many more will come. As more and more of the young students strive to be the best they can be, language has given them a head start when they are tested into higher level college classes.

Learning another language is an equity issue for my students. It levels the playing field for all students who decide to take a world language class, especially for the ELL students. Now we are all starting this new experience. All of a sudden, many students who have been lagging behind their peers in other classes find themselves becoming the stars in our classrooms, because their work ethic put them ahead of others. They have this newly found success and newly found confidence.

Language, its people and culture are all part of our learning. As the students learn and acquire the new knowledge, they start sharing with others what they know. They volunteer at different events in our community. They present to others what they have learned. The students are involved in their learning. The parents are supportive and proud that their children are part of our community. Language learning has brought the students and their family pride and ownership of their learning. The students’ presentations and activities bridge the community and our schools. Language gives them a great opportunity to be engaged as they grow and develop into contributing members of our society. They have become great ambassadors for our school and for all young people.

Language empowers young people. Language builds bridges to create understanding among all people. I am privileged to be part of my students’ growth.