Top Teachers

Saturday, February 27, 1999

Name: Thomas Chao
Age: 63
Position: Teacher of Chinese at Iolani School
Education: National Taiwan Normal University
Pastimes: Yardwork, meditation

Giving students due respect

When Thomas Chao first taught Chinese at Iolani School 24 years ago, he faced challenges.

At the time, no language books had ever been written for non-Chinese-speaking high school students. And although he had taught at universities in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Korea, Chao was not fully prepared to teach high school students.

"It was a very tough job," Chao said. He started from scratch to create materials and gained a valuable lesson he'd never forget: Chao learned that students deserve a mutual exchange of respect and understanding from teachers.

"Teachers need to be open-minded and willing to make changes when necessary," he said. "They can always find areas to improve upon."

Chao has since written two conversational Chinese books. Another book, about Chinese culture, is expected to be finished by the end of the year.

In his free time, Chao does yardwork and teaches Chinese Buddhism every Saturday afternoon at the Kuan Yin Temple on Vineyard Boulevard. Teachings from all Chinese philosophers, especially Confucius and Lao Tzu, are important to him, he said.

"Every time I talk to him, I learn something," said Linda Tatsuno, head of Iolani's foreign languages department. "He brings you up to a higher level of understanding.

"He's just a very wonderful person -- truly a leader," Tatsuno said.

By Shirley Iida, Star-Bulletin

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