Yuan Yao: Making a difference at NBW with Mandarin Chinese


Yuan Yao holds a dragon puppet to celebrate Chinese New Year. She has been teaching at New Berlin West for three years.

Savannah Gumina, Staff Writer

I walk into Yuan Yao’s room, greeted by a big smile and a “Ni Hao” (Hello in Mandarin). To get to know this fabulous Mandarin teacher a little better, I look around the room. In the room, I notice that there are maps, posters with both English and Chinese words and characters, and lights strung up. The overall feel of the room is welcoming, with Yao eating some exotic looking food and smelling up the room, but in the best way possible.

Yao attended UW Madison and studied National Relations. She hasn’t always lived in the USA, though. She was born in Shang Hai, China, and moved to the USA in 2010, after attending a college in Shang Hai called Fu Dan. She wanted to pursue education in the United States.

In China, there were “myths” that the US had better schooling.

“I had hoped to learn things [in the US] that I could bring back with me to China.”

Before teaching, Yao worked with migrant children in China. This has started her in the teaching pathway, she wanted to help students.

She says that her favorite part of teaching is “Seeing the uniqueness of every student.”

She dated her high school sweetheart for ten years before marrying him in 2010.  She enjoys the colors yellow and green, Titantic, cooking, and bunnies.

“My mom used to call me her bunny.” She stated. Her parents still live in China, but she speaks to them often. Yao is an only child, and says of her parents,

“They invested everything in me. Love, resources…”

Her role model is Mother Theresa, and when asked why, she responds:

“To help people in need, you need passion and faith, which is one of the reasons I wanted to be a teacher.”

Yu Lu Dang, sophomore, says, “Ms. Yao is really nice and she doesn’t assign a lot of homework. She’s great.” And this student is not alone. With so many classes, both here and at Eisenhower, she never seems stressed or out of place, always moving and talking with the kids. Even here in Flex, she has students popping into say hello or to stay a while and study.  You don’t need to be afraid to ask questions; her room is always open.

In the mornings, however, she can be found at Eisenhower, teaching Mandarin there as well. When I asked her the controversial question about which was her favorite school, she responded, saying, “Every school has different [qualities]. It’s hard to pick which one I like better.”