Faculty Profile: Sharon Chang

emilyjones | January 30, 2014

To Sharon Chang, a new faculty member in the Bilingual/Bicultural Education Program at Teachers College, identity has always been a deep personal and academic interest to her. Born and raised in Taiwan, Chang has an interesting history when it comes to her acquisition of her Mandarin, which has significantly influenced her identity.

“You have to learn Mandarin. You have to learn English” is what her father would say to her when she was little. Originally from a small Matsu island west of Taiwan, Chang’s father moved to Taiwan and faced discrimination because of the minority dialect he speaks. “My father would not teach me the dialect he speaks and so he would only speak to me in Mandarin,” said Chang.

Yet the Mandarin she learned from her father did not have an accent influenced by her father’s dialect, and this led to an interesting perception that people would have about her. “It’s funny that a lot of Chinese speakers would not know where I’m from,” she said. “I guess I created this artificial standard Mandarin.”

Furthermore, Chang said that she picked up Taiwanese because everyone else around her was speaking it. She would identify herself as Taiwanese, but she said that some Taiwanese would not acknowledge that she is Taiwanese because of the way she talks. In reality, Taiwan is quite a multicultural and multilingual country due to the large number of immigrants, but Chang said such aspect of diversity is not recognized much by Taiwanese.

“It’s very fascinating. I am always fascinated with the research in language, culture, and identity because I’m also interested in who I am.” Thus started her journey to the US to pursue her doctoral degree in Multicultural and Multilingual Education.

When she was offered a position at Teachers College after she completed her doctoral studies at University of Washington, Chang readily accepted it to enrich her research experience. “I thought TC would give me a very good professional development opportunity that I would not otherwise receive in any other institutions,” she said.

She is already involved in a project called Pedagogy of Social Imagination in Language Learning/Teaching (PSILLT), which is National Professional Development Grant funded by the US Department of Education. The main objective of PSILLT is to aid bilingual teacher candidates in their teacher preparation, and Chang is currently working with Professor Carmen Martinez-Roldán in a Mandarin dual language after-school program at PS20. “I’m very excited about that program,” she said. “This semester, nine teacher candidates in the Bilingual/Bicultural Education Program are going to partake in certain roles and designing the curriculum.”
Chang also has yet to explore New York City, having moved here in September. “I’ve been taking advantage of the free museums,” she said. “So far MoMA has been my inspiration. To go the museum and listen to the audio tours helps you to understand how the artists construct their work. That helped me to conceptualize my thinking and write up the analysis or just helped me to describe what I wanted to express.”

Exploring the buildings of Teachers College has also been an interesting adventure for Chang. “Every day I get lost, but then every day I discover something new,” she said. “To look on the bright side, I think it’s part of the experience of going through a new environment.”

“I’m not comfortable yet to be addressed as professor,” said Chang. “I’m hoping I could contribute to the Bilingual/Bicultural Education Program and also to TC community. But definitely at this point, there is so much to learn.”

-Written by Jamie Kim