The Chase Zen Foundation was created by Jessica Tien, in memory of her son, Chase Zen Kattell, to continue his life goal of teaching English abroad. Because English tutoring can sometimes be too expensive for families, the Chase Zen Foundation aims to provide students with free, personalized lessons with native English-speaking volunteer teachers via total English immersion. The majority of the teachers associated with this foundation are American students who are currently enrolled in a university. This organization not only gives the children the opportunity to learn English from a native English speaker, but also grants the teachers the opportunity to travel and experience the rich cultures of other countries.
This year marked the first annual Teach English in Taiwan excursion during July of this year. The foundation sent four volunteer teachers, Caitlin Shaw, Laura McAllister, Sonya Ring, and Luigi Miano, to teach at Mt. Ali Elementary and Middle School on Alishan mountain in Taiwan, hosted by Principal Lin.
One of the main reasons learning any language is difficult is because people are so intimidated by mispronouncing something that they won’t even try to speak in that language. For this reason, the intent of this educational teaching program is to provide a safe, secure environment where the children feel confident enough to speak freely and uninhibited.
The curriculum taught was through the medium of Arts & Crafts, Dancing & Entertainment, Business & Broadcasting, and Culinary & Cooking. Within these subjects, the students were engaged in activities like having them grow their own beanstalk, making an apple crisp, and dancing the Cha Cha Slide.
The Cha Cha Slide was particularly popular for some of the students. One night, instead of spending their free time practicing the dances to the latest music videos as they normally would, the students’ enthusiasm for learning won out. This was shown when they requested the name of the Cha Cha slide song (which was, funnily enough, ‘The Cha Cha Slide’) from the teachers so they could continue practicing the dance on their own.
Additionally, the teachers supplemented the activities with a game of their own creation that encouraged friendly competition and teamwork. For this game, the teachers would write five words on the board before dividing the students into self-named groups and having them work together to create a sentence using every word written. After giving them a few minutes to form their sentences, one member from each group would come up to the board. Upon hearing “GO!”, they would race to write their group’s sentence the fastest, but it would have to be grammatically correct, as well, in order to win. Some days, it was Team ACDC, and other days, it was Team Snowman.
In the end, the Chase Zen Foundation’s time in Taiwan proved to be an incredibly rewarding experience for the teachers, not only in having the opportunity to develop the students’ English, but from getting to know these remarkable, vibrant children on a personal level, as well as a glimpse of Taiwan, this Ilha Formosa, through their eyes.
Article by: Caitlin Shaw