The second time around

Teacher moves across the globe to start a new career


Matt Bolden

Chinese Teacher, Tina Lee, teaches her class the Mandarin language. The students have completed several projects involving Mandarin throughout the year.

After hearing from a friend that the school was looking for a part-time Chinese teacher, Tina Lee decided to contact principal Chris Mayfield about potentially working at the high school. After spending a couple years working in a corporate environment, she decided it was time for a career change. But, this wouldn’t be the first time she’d be teaching in a classroom.

Before moving to Texas in 2010, Lee spent nine years teaching fifth and sixth grade Gifted and Talented students over a variety of subjects, such as writing, debate and theatre in Taiwan. Living in Taiwan however, was vastly different than living in Texas. 

“My main job was to make Chinese literature fun and applicable,” Lee said. “There are so many differences between Taiwan and Texas. Almost everything is different; diet, languages, culture. I miss the convenience and the cheap living cost in Taiwan the most.” 

Moving to Texas at first was hard on Lee, as the setting between the two areas were very different. On top of that, she didn’t know how to cook, and “hardly dared to drive.” Lee was also a vegetarian, making dining out “harder” for herself. 

“In Taiwan, we have very convenient and clean public transportation to get to different cities, and I had a car and a scooter to get around within the city,” Lee said. “Not just that, it’s easier to travel to different countries from Taiwan, such as Thailand, Japan and Singapore. Living in Texas was hard for me in the first few years.”

In 2010, Lee’s life was drastically changed as she flew across the Pacific to move to Texas, where she faced a new environment embroidered with new challenges awaiting her. But, instead of becoming a teacher right away, Lee decided to pursue a career in the telecom industry for a couple of years. 

“When I just arrived, I felt miserable,” Lee explained. “However, after starting to work and make friends, I began to enjoy my life here gradually. Right now, I am proud to be a Texan, and  enjoy the space, cleanliness, and friendships I have built.” 

But during the summer of 2018, Lee decided it was time for a change, and she wanted to pursue a job that was challenging and would allow her to “share ideas.” Lee heard about the district through friends and neighbors, and understood it was a “very good school district.” 

“I didn’t want to sit all day,” Lee said, when describing her job in Telecommunications. “My friend told me that LHS was looking for a part-time Chinese teacher. After prayers, I contacted the principal to proceed with the process.”

Lee began working as a part-time Chinese teacher at the high school starting the fall semester of 2018, and has taught Chinese I, II, and III at the high school. She is currently the only chinese teacher, and only works until the end of 4th period. She also runs the Chinese culture club which hosts weekly meetings Tuesday after school.

“Teaching itself at LHS wasn’t difficult,” Lee said. “The real challenge to me is that I have to learn the school culture and regulation all over again. After working here for almost two years, I can see why Lovejoy has such a high reputation. Students and staff here are respectful to each other, which impresses me.” 

Sophomore Eric Wang has taken all three Chinese courses the school offers, including Chinese III with Lee last year.

“She always prepares us for the test and explains the material very well,” Wang said. “She’s a really nice person, and she always brings us cultural food. She made boba for us once, and she brings snacks from the chinese supermarkets.”

After her first year of teaching at the high school, Lee quickly learned what it means to be a teacher again, as her students excel in her class from her teaching style.

“I learn that some students look tough on the outside, but deep down they are soft,” Lee said. “Sometimes they were difficult to approach, because they got hurt or just had a bad day. But I appreciate the opportunity of working at Lovejoy from the bottom of my heart.”

One of the things Lee does that students enjoy is their annual field trip to different Chinese supermarkets in Plano to pick out snacks for a class celebration of Chinese New Year’s.

“My favorite memory [from Chinese class] was when we went on our field trip and we went to Jusgo and other asian supermarkets,” junior Nicholas Sy said. “We’ll buy snacks for our Chinese New Year party there, and then afterwards we’ll go eat at a Chinese restaurant. And we sometimes try to order in just Chinese.”

While life in Taiwan and Texas remains different for Lee, she’s found her footing within the district community, and is looking to continue teaching.

“Working at Lovejoy gives me what I was looking for,” Lee said. “I still make mistakes here and there, but that’s life. We fall and then we get back up.”