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Daniel Chen

A Gold Coast languages teacher who once sang to 30,000 people in concert is enthralling students with YouTube videos, singing, guitar playing, ventriloquy and a great sense of humour. The state teaching award finalist once convinced his younger students he really was trapped in a wall and was teaching them from there after he sent in an interactive video.

Saint Stephen’s College Chinese teacher Daniel Chen has completely redesigned and reinvigorated the way Chinese is taught to children, writing the college’s entire Prep to Year 6 curriculum. Children can be heard singing his songs in the playground and they are teaching them to their younger siblings at home.

Mr Chen’s enthusiasm, his passion for children to gain the benefits of a second language, his extensive knowledge of languages and his drive to always do more to be engaging in the classroom are just some of the reasons he is a finalist in the Queensland College of Teachers Excellence in Beginning to Teach TEACHX Award this year.

Mr Chen’s parents moved from Australia to Taiwan for three years while he was in high school so that he could master the Chinese language and also hone his Japanese language skills. He returned to study journalism in Australia and threw himself into work experience, but the idea of being a teacher called him.

“I wanted to do something that would impact people in a close proximity and before that I’d done tennis coaching … and I thought teaching might be something I’d be good at,” he said. “The reason I teach languages is because I don’t want there to be any barriers between us, we’re all human,” Mr Chen said. “I think learning second languages – English and Japanese for me – has been really beneficial and I want to share that with my kids as well, so that they can know the social impact of a second language. Starting Chinese at a young age for these students will be very beneficial for them in this modern society.”

Mr Chen used to write songs for World Vision and he once sang one at a concert of over 30,000 people in Taiwan. Now Saint Stephen’s students are benefitting from his creativity instead. Mr Chen has created the YouTube video series ‘Speakin’ Chinese So Easy, which combines humour with association – connecting Chinese words to English words children already know and understand.

For the younger students he is constantly introducing new activities to keep up with their attention spans, but he said what works for them doesn’t work for the older students. “In Term 3 I introduced ventriloquism and they love Sunny the Monkey … but once you get to Years 5 and 6, they are looking at my lips saying, ‘Are you saying that’, so you need to be different.”

This year Mr Chen, who initially studied teaching for high school students and draws on the experience of his colleagues by observing them teach their classes, is working on curriculum for junior secondary so he can instil in them the same love of learning Chinese.

Mr Chen received $500 for professional development.

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