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My Breck Story: Three decades later...

Three decades later and my Breck education still matters

“As a college professor, I can see how innovative members of the Breck faculty were in their teaching. I’d like to think that, inspired by their teaching, I carry a little bit of each of their legacies forward as I teach MY students. I hope that I positively influence some of my students as much as they influenced me.

After taking Chinese at Breck, I went on, after college, to teach English in China in 1986-88. I doubt I would have done this had I not taken Chinese class in high school with Wong Laoshi, because I only took a year of Chinese in college. But her class flamed a spark of interest in the language, people, and country that has never died, and, sick and tired of science when I finished my bachelor’s, teaching in China seemed like a perfect way to escape a future lifetime in the lab. My time in China redirected my career toward teaching, as I realized I wanted to work with people. As Margaret Wong taught language, it was really about learning culture and connecting with people as much as it was learning grammar and pronunciation. A few years ago, I thought I’d left China behind (I haven’t been back to China since leaving in ’88). But then, about 10 years ago, the number of Chinese national students in my department started to rise. Last year, our entering class was 20% native Chinese speakers, and my Chinese language skills now come in handy helping these students acclimate to a U.S. university. I particularly enjoy watching their mouths drop when I use Chinese for the first time to tell them to hurry up or scold them for not speaking enough English.

In the materials I get from Breck recent grads describe how Breck, in the first few years out of high school and college, directed them toward their careers. I would say, however, that the effects of Breck last much longer, and that one begins to appreciate them more as one grows older. Thirty years later, I more clearly understand how influential my Breck teachers were, not only in defining what I ‘know’ but also in terms of how and what I’ve gone on to do in my life and work.” 

— Heidi Hohmann, Class of 1981