Teacher Ms. Sun reflects on her work creating BSM’s Chinese department


Carolyn Mason

Chinese teacher Ms. Sun has proven to be a staple in the BSM community through her work forming BSM’s Chinese program.

Ronan Brew, Staff Writer

Latin, Spanish, and French. For years, these were the only languages taught at BSM. However, the introduction of Chinese to BSM’s language offerings has resulted in much success for the BSM World Language department. Behind it all is Chinese teacher Ms. Li Sun.

Introducing the program in 2013, Sun has steadily paved the way for this new language in BSM. Although her path to BSM and America wasn’t easy, Sun has successfully initiated a language in a school known for its esteemed world language program.

It was only after her husband took a position in Stanford that she began her teaching career in America. Upon reaching the States in 1995, Sun encountered difficulties as an immigrant. “I lost my home. I [didn’t] have a job here. It took me two years to get a work permit,” Sun said.

Although she’s taught Chinese for years, language wasn’t Ms. Sun’s first teaching position. Working in China, Sun taught computer sciences at a university. Upon reflecting on her time in America, Sun quickly noticed the contrasts between the two nation’s education systems. “The Chinese education system is teacher based, whereas the American system is very student based,” Sun said.

This dynamic structure has stood out to Sun since she started teaching in America. “I noticed that the students here love to learn. They want to have more awareness of eastern language and culture. [My Chinese] students knew they had to learn. My students now love to learn,” Sun said.

Soon, Sun found herself in Minnesota. It became clear that BSM would be a perfect fit. “I was looking for high school teaching, and BSM was looking for a Chinese teacher to create a program,” Sun said. As she took over the program, some things came easily, while others were more difficult. Being the first eastern language taught at BSM, much of the material and procedure was as foreign to students as the language itself.

Despite these barriers, Sun was appreciative of the way BSM structured their learning policies and standards to adhere to her style of teaching. “The policies at BSM are really good. Most of my students know, when they choose the course, they have to be successful. Also, the teaching style is very 21st Century-–focused on diversity and communication. This is very helpful,” Sun said. This learning environment allowed for Sun to grow the Chinese program as she has.

Wanting to take full advantage of everything BSM had to offer, Sun even attended a few of the Comparative Government classes last year. In China, there were few opportunities to learn of other cultures and nations, so Sun decided to attend these lectures to learn more about her home. “I went to these classes because I liked to know more about Western and American cultures to help with my teaching,” Sun said.

Throughout her experiences as a teacher in the U.S., Sun emphasized what stood out and surprised her. “My students are very creative. They want to learn, they are willing to learn, they like to learn,” Sun said.

Through her time in BSM and teaching language, Sun reflected on what she had learned about what learning new languages can do. “[It’s] a vehicle to connect western culture and eastern culture. Even connect people through communication,” Sun, who has seen firsthand the unifying nature of language, said.

Of course, the success of the department is a result of the enthusiasm of the students who take it. “I’m learning good Chinese. It’s a great class to help me learn the language,” sophomore Gus Pirkl said. 

Clearly, Sun has made an impression on her students. “I love Ms. Sun… She teaches us because she cares and wants us to be successful… She is very proud to be Chinese and I love having a teacher who is a native speaker because it will help my Chinese to be as fluent as possible,” senior Carolyn Mason said.

However successful the newfound language may be in BSM, the program has yet to gain the same respect as the other branches of the language department. Even years after the Chinese program was initiated, there is still no dedicated classroom for the language. “I wish that she had her own classroom because she deserves it. I feel like Chinese doesn’t get the same amount of credit as the other languages here. She drags around a cart for every class,” Mason said.  

The impact of learning Chinese at BSM is evident. By learning Chinese, students will have the tools to reach hundreds more people in the future. Sun has instituted a program that makes a difference in today’s modern world. “So many people speak Chinese in the world. By knowing the language, I will be able to communicate effectively in more important business and cultural relationships later on in life,” Pirkl said.