Dr. Hwei-jen Yang, an associate professor of the department of communication of Clarion University, says she has too much fun and too strong a passion to retire from teaching.
Yang graduated from National Taiwan University in 1965 with a degree in law, which she taught for three years while also moonlighting as an algebra teacher at a local high school.
Becoming bored of her life in Taiwan, she made the trip to the United States, enrolling at Murray State University, where she received a master’s degree in speech. Ten years after arriving in America, she finished her degree in communication from Ohio State University.
Her first teaching job in the U.S. came as a communication professor at Penn State-McKeesport, where she taught for seven years.
It was then in 1985 that she made her way to Clarion, where she has remained a steadfast member of the communication department for the past 30 years.
One reason Yang said she chose Clarion was that it gave her the opportunity to teach her favorite subject, cross-cultural communication, which she says is her favorite because “[She] is part of it.”
In addition to cross-cultural communication, her other classes include interpersonal communication, gender and communication, and organizational communication.
Yang’s goals as a teacher are simple: to connect with and learn from her students. She said she wants her pupils to leave her classes knowing just how important communication is in life, personally and professionally.
As for advice she’d give to current students, Yang spoke of the importance of exploration.
“Go out and see the world, because it’s wonderful out there, and try to accept and enjoy people who are different from us.”
Had teaching not worked out for Yang, she believes she would have stayed with her first degree and become a lawyer. She said she also has a strong passion for her other job: being a mother.
Perhaps the biggest accomplishment of Yang’s career was becoming a speech teacher.
While still in Taiwan, she found a catalogue from Murray State and saw “speech” as an offering. After checking her dictionary to understand the word, she said she was amazed that you could study such a subject.
When she arrived in Kentucky in 1968, she spoke next to no English. In just her second semester, her teachers had decided she was ready for assistantship, and assigned her to teach two classes of her own.
When first teaching her classes, she realized that her students weren’t understanding much of what she was saying and vice versa. It was then that she came up with the idea of turning the class around and having them teach her. As a curious person, she was able to just sit and listen as her students taught her everything they could.
By the end of the semester, she had gained the tools to become a real speech teacher.
“This story illustrates the important of listening,” said Yang.
This is something she does to this day, taking every chance to simply listen to her students in all of her speech classes. Despite reaching retirement age, Yang has no such plans.
However, if she would happen to retire, she claims to have some solid karaoke skills to fall back on.